Ole Mikkel Lerøen’s operations came to include retail sales in Bergen, the sale of live shellfish and a budding export business. In 1939, two of his employees, Hallvard Lerøy Sr. and Elias Fjeldstad, established a wholesaler and seafood export company – Hallvard Lerøy AS. This company went on to invest in facilities where they could receive pelagic fish and whitefish, and in fish farming. Poor results and insufficient capitalisation forced the company to close down or sell these operations in the early 1990s in order to safeguard their core business: wholesale and exports. In 1994, the company carried out a last emergency share issue and started the process of reestablishing a healthy business. At that time, the company's equity was valued at NOK 20 million, prior to an issue worth NOK 5 million.
The potential for growth within fish farming and increasing customer requirements necessitated a radical change in the Group's business concept and strategy. Up to 1997, the Group was a family-owned operation. In 1997, however, a private placing with financial investors was carried out for the first time, aiming to develop the Group in every part of the value chain. This was the start of what was to become a series of major investments within fish farming. In 1999, the company acquired a minority interest in what was then Hydrotech-Gruppen AS. In the summer of 2001, Norskott Havbruk AS was founded with the sole purpose of acquiring Golden Sea Products, now Scottish Sea Farms Ltd. in the UK.
Access to capital and expertise
The Group was listed on Oslo Stock Exchange in June 2002, providing access to the capital market for the Group and thereby strategic financial room to manoeuvre. Sufficient access to capital, in addition to expertise, have been critical factors in developing the Group from a wholesaler/seafood exporter to what is now a global and fully integrated seafood corporation.
At the turn of the new millennium, large parts of the fish farming industry were seriously undercapitalised and suffering from the impact of a short-term perspective and a lack of risk management. Lerøy Seafood Group was in a good position in August 2003 when we purchased Nye Midnor AS as it was then called – the company that currently makes up the main share of Lerøy Midt AS. The Group went on to acquire Lerøy Aurora AS in 2005, Fossen AS and the remaining shares in Hydrotech-Gruppen AS in 2006, Lerøy Vest in 2007 via a business combination, and a majority shareholding in Sjøtroll Havbruk AS in 2010. The acquisition and demerger of Villa Organic were conducted in 2014. The above mentioned companies, a number of minor acquisitions, highly skilled local management and organic growth have allowed the Lerøy Seafood Group to develop into one of the world's largest producers of Atlantic salmon and trout.
Investments in processing
The Group has over time made substantial investments within the VAP, Sales & Distribution segment. These investments in VAP have provided more room for manoeuvre in relation to the sale of own-produced salmon and trout, generated a wider product range and opened the door to new markets.
The Group made their ambitions clear in 2002 with the investment in fish smoking capacity in Sweden (Lerøy Smøgen). It continued to inivest and in 2005 invested in a processing facility for whitefish in Bulandet (Bulandet Fiskeindustri) in order to further expand their product range. In 2006, the Group expanded its high-value processing plant for trout and salmon on the island of Osterøy (Lerøy Fossen). The Group's acquisition of 50.1% of the shares in the Dutch seafood company Rode Beheer BV Group took place in 2012. The remaining 49.9% was acquired in 2016. The Group has subsequently gone on to expand capacity at all its existing plants.
Lerøy Seafood Center in Urk, the Netherlands (construction start 2017) is a factory built with a focus on a very high level of automation and a number of technological innovations in the production of smoked and freshly packaged products. It is one of the most modern factories for these types of products in Europe. Unfortunately, the framework conditions for industrial development in Norway are increasingly unsatisfactory. This has resulted in an increase in production outsourced from Norway to low-cost countries, however Lerøy Seafood Group has invested heavily in production on the coast of Norway to counteract this trend. Automation is frequently a key element in these investments. A good example of this is the highly modern factory on the island of Jøsnøya in Hitra.
Reaching new markets
The Group's ambition to increase demand for seafood in the form of new products for new markets has been the constant driving force behind the Group's investments in the VAP, Sales & Distribution segment. This segment not only sells its own production of salmon, trout and whitefish, but also has a high level of active collaboration with third parties, ensuring a wide product range for the Group within seafood. In recent years, the Group has also made significant investments in factory capacity, in order to take part in leading the“revolution” within the distribution of fresh seafood. These investments have been made in what is known as “fish-cuts”, processing facilities where proximity to the customer is key. The distribution of fresh seafood requires quality throughout the entire organization, flexibility, continuity in supply and a high level of service. Today, the Group has a number of fish-cut facilities across Europe. Leroy Processing Spain has achieved an impressive development within “ready-to-eat meals” and sushi. Over the past five years, the company has built factories in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante and Gran Canaria. In the spring of 2021, the company will open its first factory in Italy, in Porto Viro, south of Venice. The Group currently sells seafood to more than 80 markets worldwide.
Innovator within seafood
Ever since its very foundation, the Group has taken a pioneering role within a number of areas in the Norwegian, and subsequently international, seafood industry. The main focus has primarily been on developing markets for seafood. The Group has repeatedly been the first to enter new markets, or to commercialise new species of fish. One of the main goals for the Group is to be an innovator within seafood, and preferably in cooperation with the end customer. This is important not only within product development, but also in other areas such as the development of efficient logistics and distribution. This pioneering spirit is still very much alive in the Group.
Wild catches and whitefish industry
2017 will be remembered as one of the most important years in the company's long history. With the acquisition of 100% of the shares in the trawler shipping company Havfisk ASA (now Lerøy Havfisk ASA) and 100% of the shares in Norway Seafoods AS (now Lerøy Norway Seafoods AS) in the autumn of 2016, the Group embarked on a new and exciting journey. In 2017, whitefish was fully integrated into the Group's well- established value chain. Since then, the Group has consecutively invested in both new, modern trawlers and industrial facilities. Lerøy Seafood Group is now a fully integrated company, having achieved control of the entire value chain for a full range of seafood – from the sea to the consumer.
Sustainable seafood producer
Lerøy Seafood Group works continuously on sustainability in every part of the value chain. We focus on all the different areas related to sustainability:
We have sustained our perpetual focus on improvements within these areas in 2020.
The Group has carried out a number of projects within environmental sustainability, such as electrification of feed barges and boats, reduction of food waste and plastic, projects related to fish welfare and fish health, lice, certification and reduction of deforestation relating to raw materials for feed.
The Group is also involved in a number of initiatives within social sustainability, such as leadership development training for our employees and employee surveys. We are also involved in projects relating to supplier follow-up, ripple effect analyses and different collaboration platforms with local communities and other stakeholders.
In 2020, a year significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have once again proven that the Group's business model is economically sustainable. The strong market position for seafood and the unique expertise in the organization ensures that we are well-prepared for challanges for this magnitude.
At the start of 2021, Lerøy Seafood Group has a unique position for further sustainable growth and development.