Saturday, July 15, 2017
Harðfiskur, or dried fish, is something that Icelanders both love and are extremely proud of. But it’s a pricy delicacy. We set out and visited five grocery stores to see just how pricy it is.
To give you a little heads up, harðfiskur is fish that has been dried, most often haddock, wolf fish or cod. One of the drying processes is kind of like that of maturing cheese. The fish is hung out to dry for 4 to 6 weeks, or until it turns very hard and yellow. Then it’s pounded by a meat mallet to soften the dried fish up and make it edible.
Icelanders have been eating harðfiskur for centuries and the reason is simple. This lovely fish product has so much protein, around 80 to 85% per 100 grams to be exact, and made it very easy for our forefathers to keep up their strength while traveling long distances. A lightweight energy bar so to say.
An expensive luxury item
Today, harðfiskur is quite the luxury item. It’s expensive, mainly because only 10% of the fish is good enough to be sold after the drying process. Icelanders eat the dried fish like candy, gobbling it up with some butter to make it even softer. Me, I like my harðfiskur with nothing and I love chewing on every single little bite for what seems to be eternity. Then I really get to taste the saltiness of the fish, resulting from the fact that the fish is placed in a salt brine before it is hung to dry.
Heaven is going to cost you
Anyway, so I get why harðfiskur is so expensive but sometimes I feel like I’m paying ridiculous prices for just a little bite of heaven. That’s why I decided to venture around town and price check some dried fish. I went to five supermarkets: Costco, Hagkaup, Krónan, Bónus and 10-11, with the last one also having shops in various gas stations around Iceland. Different types of dried fish are sold in all five shops, so I decided to price check filets of dried cod. And I should note that this is not a quality check. All prices are checked on the 14th of July 2017.
Costco is cheaper than Bónus
My first stop was Iceland’s newest love: Costco. Usually you buy dried fish in packaging of 100 to 150 grams, but of course Costco sells me half a kilo of the good stuff. Their big bag costs 3.499 ISK, which means that a kilo of harðfiskur is 6.998 ISK at the warehouse chain. I thought that was pretty good, so I set out trying to find a better price.
Since Bónus is right next door to Costco, that was my next destination. Bónus is generally considered the cheapest supermarket in Iceland so I was surprised to see that the price per kilo of dried fish was higher than at Costco. 7.990 ISK to be exact. That’s a price difference of almost 1000 ISK. Not that you can do a whole lot for 1000 ISK in Iceland, but it’s still a decent budget lunch.
Next up was Hagkaup, one of the pricier grocery stores in Iceland. I braced myself for a shock and thought that now I would see a pricing that would create a bad taste in my mouth. Well, I was wrong. Hagkaup has its own brand of harðfiskur and sell a 350 gram package for only 2.999 ISK, or 8.569 ISK per kilo. Sure, it’s not the cheapest option but I was expecting a bigger price gap than 1.571 ISK from Costco to Hagkaup.
Krónan more expensive than Hagkaup
So, I decided to make Krónan my next stop. Krónan is a budget friendly grocery store, or so I thought before I price checked the harðfiskur. You see, Krónan also has its own brand of dried fish, a 200 gram bag of dried cod for a whopping 1.839 ISK. That’s 9.195 ISK per kilo! At my favorite budget grocery store! I must say that I will have to reconsider where I shop because I think this price for dried fish is disgraceful when you market yourself as a budget friendly option. The dried fish at Krónan is over 2.000 ISK more expensive than at Costco but what’s more shocking is that Hagkaup’s dried fish is actually cheaper than the one that Krónan carries. I didn’t see that coming!
Save almost 9.000 ISK!
My final stop was a shop I knew would take the cake when it comes to ridiculous pricing and that’s 10-11. A general rule of thumb is: Do not shop at 10-11 unless you have some sort of emergency. Everything in there is overpriced through the roof. Including the dried fish. So, we have a cheapest price of 6.998 ISK per kilo and our highest price of 9.195 ISK per kilo. Do you want to guess what the price is at 10-11? Well, it’s 15.990 ISK per kilo! That’s almost 9.000 ISK more expensive than the Costco fish! For that price difference, you could actually tour the Golden Circle or hop on a Puffin tour, to put things into perspective.
128% price difference
To sum things up, out of the five stores I visited the dried fish is cheapest at Costco. However, you can’t shop at Costco without a membership and it’s quite far away from the city center. Get instructions on how to get to Costco in our guide to the warehouse chain. Bónus is second cheapest, followed by Hagkaup and Krónan. The most expensive is 10-11, with the dried fish being 128% more expensive than the Costco one. Now, that’s food for thought and yes, that pun was intended.