SWSS: Seafood industry has small window to hit growth opportunity, experts say
The seafood industry has 2 to 4 years to take advantage of a unique opportunity to gain more market share, according to two marketing experts speaking at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit on Monday, February 1.
In his opening keynote address, Arlin Wasserman, the founder of Changing Tastes, a food service consultancy, said while total protein consumption globally has risen, the amount of red meat intake is declining steadily.
“If we can reposition fish as better than other foods for health, environment and other reasons, we can win market share from those transitioning away from meat and make ours the ideal protein for the dining and shopping public,” Wasserman said.
Wasserman suggested a 2.5- to 4-year time frame for the seafood industry to capture the market before the public switches its diet to protein alternatives such as vegetables and nuts. He said, due to the short projected timeline, that promotional efforts for seafood must focus on a big-picture perspective, marketing itself in comparison to other proteins rather than internecine competition between producers, species or types of production.
“Currently, seafood has siloed itself off and is marketing itself to restaurants, food service and hospitality companies with comparisons between types of product,” Wasserman said. “They’re saying: some types of fish and production are better than other types of fish and production, when they should be marketing seafood in comparison to other proteins.”
An argument can be made that it benefits both the health of individuals and the planet for consumers to switch from meat to fish, Wasserman said. Highlighting the seasonality and sourcing would augment marketing efforts, he added, because consumers associate that information with healthy food. Sustainability should also get attention, but the industry cannot allow discussions on sustainability to distract or divide marketing seafood as a whole, Wasserman argued.
“If it were not for the rapid transition of diets away from meat, by all means it would be a wise move for the industry to focus on improving sustainability first before going to market with its product,” Wasserman said. “However, because this transition is happening so quickly and the benefits of transitioning to fish from meat are so compelling, we need to put all our focus into winning market share right now.”
Wasserman called for the U.S. government to join efforts to organize a fish and seafood council, similar to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association or the National Chicken Council to promote consumption.
Matt Brooker, senior category manager for seafood supplier The Fishin’ Co., backed Wasserman’s assertions and call for a fish and seafood council.
“What we would like to see more of, especially from organizations like the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, is work to increase consumption of seafood, with the push coming from a nutrition standpoint,” Brooker said. “I think that marketing efforts promoting seafood as a whole, based on health factors, are what can help the industry the most at this point.”
“We don’t have time to quarrel over which brand is the best or which country of origin is the best,” Brooker continued. “When we have all these different segments marketing individually, it confuses the consumer so much they end up avoiding seafood altogether. We have to promote seafood as a whole, and we have to do it better and louder soon or we’re going to miss out on this opportunity.”