Awarded prize for researching Norwegian seafood exporters

Norway’s small seafood export companies are not just robust and successful. They are also highly adaptable and flexible, as evidenced by the research for which Nord University’s Professor Frode Nilssen and research fellow Valeria Nyu are today receiving awards.

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TWO HAPPY AWARD WINNERS: Professor Frode Nilssen and research fellow Valeria Nyu at Nord University Business School (HHN) are today being awarded a prize for the best publication in 2021 by the Economic Research Foundation. (Photo: Hege Eilertsen/Nord University). 


The Economic Research Foundation awards an annual prize for the best scientific publication, and today the 2021 prize is being awarded to Professor Frode Nilssen and research fellow Valeria Nyu from Nord University Business School (HHN).

The article for which the prize is being awarded was co-authored by these two and their research colleague and associate professor Destan Kandemir at the University of Leeds in the UK.

Inspired by developments trends

'It's a great honour for us to receive this accolade and we are very grateful for the award. We have devoted a lot of work to this and our research has been inspired by the developments that we are currently witnessing in the seafood industry," says Valeria Nyu who is originally from Archangel in Russia.

The article entitled “Small exporting firms' choice of exchange mode in international marketing channels for perishable products: A contingency approach" was published earlier this year in the renowned business journal, International Business Review.

In connection with the award ceremony which is being held at 1030 hrs today, Nyu and Nilssen will present their article in the Petter Thomassen auditorium (A5) at Nord University in Bodø.

The presentation can also be followed online.

Ms. Nyu says that they started their research work which is behind the article back in 2018, and that they have studied the smaller Norwegian seafood export companies.

Important research — for several reasons

Selected sales and marketing executives were interviewed in depth on several occasions, and all the companies behind the research have less than 50 employees.

“We have carried out a significant amount of work," says Frode Nilssen who is a professor of marketing - and a specialist in marketing strategies, market access and international trade and export barriers.

Professor Nilssen, who is also affiliated with the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, teaches at all levels at Nord University Business School and over the years he has published numerous scientific articles and books.

He became acquainted with his fellow award winner Valeria Nyu when she did a master's degree at HHN and subsequently became a research assistant and PhD fellow.

Their research work is an important contribution, both scientifically for those designing future industrial policy and not least for the seafood industry.

Successful — hand in hand with challenges

“One particularly interesting aspect of the research that we have now conducted is that we are talking about small export firms operating in a global market that is highly uncertain and subject to many different types of “disruption." It's about everything ranging from uncertainty relating to demand to huge competition between the various exporters. Nevertheless, we have seen that the small Norwegian export firms are not only able to survive — they are also becoming hugely successful. It's fascinating," says the enthusiastic professor.

Despite their stable earnings, Norwegian seafood exporters have experienced several major challenges during the last few years.

For example, in 2014 Russia introduced trade bans on food from the West, including seafood from Norway. This was followed by the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 and the subsequent lockdowns which also had a major impact on Norway and the Norwegian seafood industry after March 2020. The food markets - in which fish and seafood play a significant role - were badly affected. Market demand changed, but production costs increased.

However, in the aftermath, we know that the Norwegian seafood industry generally fared reasonably well and that its ability to undergo rapid readjustment was one of the positive trends that emerged from the pandemic.

“We have to boast a bit about the ability of this industry to readjust itself. It has undergone drastic changes, but it has managed to readjust in a very successful way," says Professor Nilssen.

Long-term relationships versus “Tinder matches"

Valeria explains that during their research they looked primarily at market channels, and in particular at how exporters work with different customer groups.

“We have identified the different types of exchanges that occur between exporters and buyers, and the “transactions" that take place with both regular customers and those that are more random, rather like Tinder matches. As part of this work we also looked at factors such as demand, competitive intensity and financial and human factors. To put it simply, everything that affects the type of transaction that an exporter ultimately chooses," she says.

One interesting finding is that exporters tend to be reluctant to commit themselves to regular customers. They are often quite happy to sell products to buyers with whom they do not have a binding customer relationship.

“Even so, they have been highly successful in navigating their way in an uncertain market, even in their relationships with their regular customers," comments Ms. Nilssen as she continues:

“The fact that they don't have to commit themselves is also very interesting when you consider previous research. Research conducted during the 90s indicates the importance of entering into a binding relationship with customers in order to be successful. Consequently, what we are seeing today is also very interesting in the context of Norwegian seafood, because small companies often do not have the resources necessary for developing long-term, binding relationships with regular buyers. Furthermore, many seafood exporters are not even attempting to do that, but they are still successful."

An industry with distinctive robustness

It's all about fresh fish — and raw materials that deteriorate in quality if the sales process takes too long. It needs to be sold and it needs to be sold quickly.

“Many seafood exporters have a wide network of contacts and particularly valuable customers. If one of them submits an extra enquiry, they will help them. However, the exporters have no obligation to do this, and that's quite special," he says.

“There's something about the nature of the seafood industry, and the fact that those who sell and operate within it are well versed in being flexible because that is part of their “everyday lives". That could provide part of the explanation too," he says. 

The Economic Research Foundation was set up in 1987 with the help of capital from donors with the objective of supporting economic and business research - and contributing towards the development of expertise and recruitment in northern Norway. The first time the foundation awarded its annual award for the best publication was in 2012.

In addition to diplomas being awarded to the authors of the article, the award is worth NOK 25,000.​