Salmon sushi is Norwegian

Look at the menu of any sushi shop in Japan and you will almost certainly see salmon: fatty, tender and bright orange. But salmon is actually a relatively new addition to the sushi menu.

Behind salmon’s rise to popularity is the Norwegian marketing campaign: Project Japan. In the 1970s, Norway began commercial salmon farming but, with decreasing seafood consumption at home, salmon was soon filling industrial freezers. Japan, meanwhile, had been overfishing its waters, and with Japanese fishermen told to remain within their exclusive economic zones by the United Nations, Japan began opening up its once nearly self-sufficient seafood industry to foreign suppliers.

When Bjorn Eirik Olsen, director of market research for Project Japan, landed in Tokyo in 1986, he knew his target market. “We had to target the raw consumption market,” he said. Fish meant for sushi or sashimi can be priced up to 10 times higher than fish aimed for the grill market. However, when Olsen introduced Norwegian salmon to the Japanese seafood industry, it was met with the response: “We don’t eat salmon in Japan.” Raw salmon that is.

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