Niceland, a new brand of seafood from Iceland, will hit the shelves of several major retailers in the U.S.A. next week. Flown in directly from Reykjavik, Niceland Seafood’s initial offering will be fresh wild-caught, Marine Stewardship Council-certified haddock, cod, redfish, wolfish, and plaice, plus farmed Arctic char.
The initiative is the brainchild of tech mogul and branding expert Oliver Luckett, the former head of innovation at The Walt Disney Company and founder and chief executive officer of social media management company theAudience. Luckett is working closely with his founding partner and CEO, Heida Helgadottir, an Icelandic politician and entrepreneur.
“I went to Iceland a few years ago for a break and realized that I wanted to live there. It wasn’t long before I was inspired to set up some new companies based around the Icelandic core values of humanism, culture, environmental sustainability, and community that so many people find appealing today,” Luckett said.
In particular, Luckett told SeafoodSource he was drawn to Iceland’s seafood industry, which has become a global leader in sustainable fisheries management, with strictly-policed catch quotas aimed at preventing overfishing. Luckett was also impressed with the use of high-tech fish processing machinery, which ensures 98 percent of the catch is used in one form or another.
“Iceland has one of the most sustainable fishing industries in the world, but very little of its seafood was available in the U.S.A.,” he said. “I realized there was a perfect opportunity to promote the Island through innovative seafood products, and Niceland Seafood was born, with the name representing all the good values.”
Undeterred by logistics or the length of the journey from the North Atlantic Ocean to American consumers’ plates, Luckett set out to streamline and digitize the process, taking advantage of rapidly-expanding air transportation routes. He also worked with Ecovative Design, which provides sustainable alternatives to plastics and polystyrene, made from mycocelium (mushroom), to develop eco-friendly shipping containers.
“A recent boom in tourism in Iceland has opened up new direct flights to cities all over the U.S.A. This means we can land fish in Reykjavik in the morning, fillet and pack it, and fly it out the same night. It gives ‘fresh on the shelves’ a whole new meaning,” Luckett said.
The unique part of the offering comes in the ‘sea-to-pan’ traceability, which uses Luckett’s new TraceabiliT system. This integrates real-time information from the fisheries, processor, and shipping partners and makes it accessible to consumers through the on-pack QR code.
“A quick scan allows consumers to see exactly where their fish was caught, and by which boat, to follow its journey through the processing plant, onto the flight to the U.S.A., and onwards through the truck journey to the restaurant or retailer where it’s purchased,” Luckett said.
Luckett explained that consumer use of QR codes is not as advanced in the U.S.A. as it is elsewhere, but Luckett’s experience shows that once people understand how it works, they are empowered to use the technology.
“The key is to make it a fun experience; I learnt a lot about that at Disney,” he said.
Part of that experience is in finding out the stories of the people involved in the journey, Helgadottir told SeafoodSource.
“Every boat and fishing village in Iceland is a community with a history and a story to tell and we want to share them with the world,” she said. “Through centuries of going out to sea we’ve learned how to utilize our natural resources in a sustainable way, and we can now share that knowledge. We want consumers to know about the people behind every single filet of fish. In this way, they become a part of the story and hopefully value their meal more as a result.”
Backed by Eyrir Invest, Niceland Seafood recently inked a partnership with the Seattle Fish Company to handle its distribution in the U.S., and has set up its North American headquarters in Denver, Colorado.
Seattle Fish Company President Derek Figueroa said he is happy with the new arrangement.
“We share the common values of sustainability and quality, and know that transparency drives customer connection and engagement,” he said. “Niceland’s integrated technology provides a level of transparency we don’t see enough of yet in our industry. We look forward to working with Niceland to bring more information to consumers and increasing the consumption of sustainable seafood.”
The brand is launching at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, taking place 15 to 17 June, after which it will be available to consumers in select restaurants and in major retailers.
“We have lots of exciting ideas for co-marketing and in-store promotions with grocers, including staff training, and have some top chefs and influencers coming onboard to help promote the restaurant side. We will also be building up our presence on social media, and keeping the website alive with new content,” Luckett said.
A master in the art of communication, Luckett’s choice of launch day was no accident.
“It is the day after Iceland – the underdog – plays in the World Cup, so people will already be talking about the country and we aim to build on the love,” he said.