The Royal History Of Norway's King Oscar Canned Seafood

2022 marks the 120-year anniversary of King Oscar canned seafood. Before it donned the moniker of royalty, Stavanger Canning Company was founded in Norway in 1873 and was among the first to pack smoked sardines in oil. Smoked brisling sardines in oil are an authentic Norwegian product and the company's intent was to ship them around the world. The company accomplished just that when it started exporting in 1880. Then, in 1893, the tinned seafood was introduced to the U.S. at Chicago's World's Fair, increasing the brand's growing notoriety.

As King Oscar writes on its site, sardines can technically be made from 22 different species of fish, but for its canned sardines, the brand uses bristling, which is a member of the herring family. The tiny fish are caught in the icy cold waters of Norway's fjords, smoked in oak-wood ovens, and packed by hand in recyclable aluminum cans. Besides mackerel and sardines, King Oscar also carries yellowfin tuna, kippers, and anchovies.

Today, King Oscar is the U.S.' leading brand in the canned specialty seafood category, according to a press release. While sardine sales drove them to the top, the company's mackerel "Royal Fillets" is the number-one selling mackerel product in the United States.

And royal is not just a marketing ploy, back in 1902, the company's products impressed a royal of top rank. 

King Oscar II was a big sardine fan

In 1902, the Stavanger Canning Company rose to fame and royal status when King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden first tasted its products. The smoked brisling sardines in oil were the product that King Oscar II tasted and loved, per a press release.

He bestowed upon the small company his name and image which they updated regularly during his lifetime to reflect his "present appearance." By 1920, King Oscar's image was cemented in sardine history and famous all over the world. Knighthood was even bestowed upon Christian Bjelland when his company was the first to export King Oscar sardines to the United States.

John Engel, president of the USA division of King Oscar, takes pride in the brand's royal legacy and quality products. In a press release, he says: "We are proud to play a small part in the tradition of the world's finest specialty seafood brand and the legacy of King Oscar II himself."