‘Tis The Lutefisk Season

The holiday season is approaching. That means lutefisk dinners for some folks in the Midwest. Chris Dorff is the president of Olsen Fish Company in Minneapolis. Olsen Fish Co. makes the Norwegian lutefisk and pickled herring. 

As they ramp up production for the busy season, the supply chain poses an issue. Dorff says packaging, such as plastic, cardboard, metal caps and glass, have been the worst in terms of shipping delays. He’s also seeing a shortage of caustic soda for lutefisk and vinegar for pickling. He predicts the ingredient used for vinegar — ethyl alcohol — was directed to hand sanitizer during the pandemic, causing a tight vinegar supply.

Lutefisk dinners are most commonly eaten at gatherings — think churches, lodges, holiday gatherings and restaurants. When the pandemic struck, that all went away. The 2020 lutefisk business for Olsen Fish Company was 20 percent of what it was the previous year. But pickled herring did well in the grocery stores.

In addition to supply chain constraints, Dorff says he’s had to promote unique incentives to keep a strong workforce. This includes full benefits packages and higher wages.