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Fukui's Monthly News Letter

Packaged, brand name shellfish

Spend a little to gain a lot

Over the last few years of writing columns, I have discussed on several occasions the importance of marketing the shellfish you are growing so as to increase demand and improve grower profitability.

While some growers are starting to look at the fact that marketing is part of their business strategy, many are still focused on growing the product only.

In early April, Leslie Sturmer of the University of Florida field station in Cedar Key, invited me to give a presentation on marketing to a number of people involved in the clam industry in that region. My presentation involved how individual growers could take a role in marketing their products to have a higher value as well as a greater demand from first time as well as repeat customers through branding and proper packaging.

While I focused on individuals or cooperative efforts, there was also a presentation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on their aggressive marketing work which to date, I might add, is the best I have seen. This is evidenced in the fact that Florida has a much higher than average per capita consumption of seafood than other regions of North America.

Within their presentation, was a fact that was stated that really hit home: "If you are just in the business to raise product rather than in the business to raise for a profit, you will be part of the two-thirds that will not be around in 5 years."

That is a strong statement that needs to be taken seriously, especially with respect to product marketing. Consider that if you have to invest 30 cents to grow a product that you will sell for 50 cents and if you had invested an additional 10 to 15 cents in branding and packaging, your income would be around a dollar.

If you choose not to believe this then simply look at the cost of cereal or bottled water vs. retail selling price and you will see that far more than 10 to 15 cents goes to marketing. Growing the product is only part of your business.

Supermarket Show

Having just returned from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) show in Chicago, I felt it important to revisit these issues.

The show, which is primarily held for the supermarket trade, is gigantic with over 50,000 visitors over the three days it is held. Everything involved in moving foodstuffs from the supply origin to the consumers home seemed to be on display. Processing equipment, display designs, transportation modes and packaging/marketing concepts were plentiful. What seemed like unlimited product brand displays from Coke, Pepsi, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Budweiser, Dole, Purina, Nabisco, etc., were very prominent.

As a matter of fact, it was a real reminder of how brand conscious we are as consumers.

Milk and bread companies, as well as almost anything you could find at a supermarket, was on display. There were companies with fresh agricultural products from mostly the United States as well as a number of aggressive countries.

What was very interesting was the very large area devoted to natural or organic foods, both plant and animal. Nutritious and healthy eating were a major point for many exhibitors. It is a great coincidence that shellfish are natural, organic, nutritious and healthy.

Convenience foods or meal-in-a-package foods were a major focus based on the demands of quick meal preparation in our busy society.

Lack of Seafood

What was painfully obvious from this massive amount of brands and foodstuff was the lack of seafood. As a matter of fact, there was only one company with fresh fish, four with frozen and five canned seafood companies with product displays.

In all my searching, I only found one display of shellfish in frozen mussels offered to this well attended show. In asking the salesperson about the product, all he knew was that they were rope grown and came from Newfoundland. He knew nothing of the product quality or nutritional value and was surprised at what I told him of the difference between wild and cultured.

When you think about it, as an industry we have a long way to go with respect to market presentation of other products however it offers an incredible opportunity for those that want to get aggressive right now.

The seafood industry is going through a paradigm shift with the increasing production of aquaculture in that never before have we had control of quality, quantity and delivery schedule. Based on this fact, to sell seafood as a commodity as it has been done for years is selling your business short and is doing nothing to enhance your bottom line.

My purpose of being at the show was to expose to the supermarket buyers of the new packaging system that we now have available for shellfish that would allow (in supermarket talk) a way to:

  • Reduce labour cost per square foot
  • Increase yield per square foot
  • Increase turnover per square foot
  • Increase information flow
  • Cause additional sales

As you might guess, we got their attention. In fact, of the many show goers that we talked to it was quite interesting hearing the response from the grocery chain people commenting that it was about time that somebody in the seafood industry paid attention to their needs.

The big question from visitors was "how do we buy shellfish this way?" We had to reply that since the system was still relatively new that as soon as their seafood supplier switched from commodity selling to product marketing supply selling, it would be made available.

Consumer Needs

We were reminded that the supermarket industry, since it was responding to consumer needs and wants, was currently really understanding the difference of changing from supply-side distribution to demand-side distribution.

While many of us are familiar with seafood marketing from the Boston Seafood Show. We need to remember that the changing face of retail from specialty stores to big box stores or hypermarkets is where the bulk of food buying is taking place now and in the future.

The trend towards meal packages is here to stay and will continue to increase. Think about your own home. Take a walk into a supermarket and look at what companies are doing in packaging to make you want to buy their product for dinner. Besides a brand name, pictures, and lots of colour, there is information about nutritional content as well as suggested recipes on the package. On the other hand, we sell oysters yet don't tell people how to even open them up let alone how to prepare them.

The technology, equipment and materials are available for growers to effectively market and package their product now.

The question you need to ask yourself is: "Are you focused on growing for a commodity market or are you going to focus on a profitable increasing bottom line?"

Remember...we are in the information age. What are you doing about it?

Contact Don Bishop at:
Fukui North America

110-B Bonnechere St.W.
Eganville, Ontario K0J 1T0

**NEW**Fax: 613-432-9494
Email: don@bishopaquatic.com or don@bishopaquatic.com

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