For oysters, growth lies beyond Christmas

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
November 19, 2009

Christmas time is boom time for oyster sales in France. But a new report suggested that packaging, kits and education could unlock French oyster sales during the rest of the year.

Administered by FranceAgriMer, the country’s agriculture and fisheries agency, the report polled 800 adult French consumers nationwide to identify ways the oyster industry could encourage occasional oyster eaters to increase their consumption.

“Industry should not rob oysters of their originality but offer consumers the possibility to increase the number of occasions they can enjoy and profit from the emotions that this unique product offers,” said the report.
 
With three-quarters, or 90,000 metric tons, of the country’s annual oyster sales occurring at Christmas time, the industry is faced with the challenge of sparking demand throughout the entire year.

The report points to a range of potential solutions, including greater visibility and more attractive packaging. “Even decorating and creating a specific atmosphere” could feed into the romantic yet natural image associated with oysters, said the report.

Educating the consumer at the point of sale — such as teaching them how to handle, prepare and shuck oysters — is another area for improvement, suggested the report.

Additionally, tapping into the growing trend in France for kitchen aids, the study suggested packaging oysters in “kits” with different types of oysters, accompaniments such as wine, bread and butter, and utensils.

The study set out to identify the consumer’s principal motivations behind oyster consumption, elaborate on the key barriers to consumption and investigate how oysters match up against other festive foods — such as foie gras and smoked salmon.

Globally, the study recommended that the industry boost demand by enhancing oysters’ image in two ways: First, by tapping into its image as a luxurious product, oysters could be marketed during special occasions. For example, Valentine’s Day is an ideal occasion to promote oysters.

Second, marketing oysters’ regionality, purity and simplicity is another ideal way to ignite demand, suggested the report.

“With this in mind, the idea of an oyster festival at the beginning of autumn could also bring gains,” said the report.

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