Marketing Keeps Oregon Pink Shrimp Out of The Red


Steven Hedlund

Published on
May 6, 2008

Trimming the marketing budget is often the first line of defense during an economic downturn. But Oregon's pink shrimp fishery remains on offense, vigorously promoting itself as well managed and sustainable, bolstering awareness of its product and differentiating it from the competition at a time when consumer sentiment is fragile and diesel costs well over $4 a gallon.

Last December, Oregon pink shrimp became the world's first shrimp fishery and 25th overall to receive the Marine Stewardship Council seafood eco-label.

Since then a handful of suppliers, including Tai Foong USA, Pacific Seafood Group and Bornstein Seafoods, and two high-profile retailers, Wegmans and Whole Foods Market, have signed on to carry MSC-certified Oregon pink shrimp. Wal-Mart, the globe's largest retailer, is looking at selling the product. And more than 100 news outlets, from the Seattle Times to Sunset magazine, have run stories about Oregon pink shrimp.

"It's amazing how much press we're getting," says Brad Pettinger, director of the Oregon Trawl Commission, which applied for MSC certification more than three years ago.

The press couldn't come at a better time, as fuel prices are off the charts. Oregon shrimpers, who hit the water last week after a 21-day price dispute with processors, are receiving 50 to 57 cents a pound for their catch but paying $3.79 a gallon or more to fill up their vessels, up from $2.29 a year ago. On a good day, a shrimper hauls in 8,000 pounds valued at $4,000 but shells out $900 to $1,200 in diesel to do so.

Pettinger is hopeful ex-vessel prices will rise when MSC-certified Oregon pink shrimp gains a foothold in the marketplace, offsetting high fuel prices. And bets are the product will, as the sustainable seafood movement, including the MSC eco-label, continues to advance. A Seafood Choices Alliance report released Monday found that 54 percent of retailers, 45 percent of wholesalers and 34 percent of chain restaurateurs think the MSC eco-label adds "significant" value to certified seafood products.

It's hard to believe that only six years ago the Oregon Trawl Commission was embroiled in a trade dispute with Atlantic Canada's pink shrimp fishery. The commission made the right move when it withdrew its antidumping petition and embraced marketing by pursuing the MSC eco-label. During tough economic times, that decision will pay off.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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