Gorton’s adapting itself to new seafood’s new retail reality
Gorton’s Seafood is stepping up production and is embarking on a new marketing campaign to cement the significant sales growth it garnered through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past year, Gorton’s retail sales surged 34 percent, with its breaded and battered wild Alaska pollock entrees snaring the highest sales increases, Kurt Hogan, the president and CEO of the Gloucester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based processor, told SeafoodSource.
Sales of its breaded Alaska pollock products rose 46 percent over the last year and 52 percent in the most recent quarter, and Gorton’s overall Q4 2020 sales rose 44 percent, reflecting sustained consumer demand, Hogan said.
Instead of launching new products this year, as it did early last year with Simply Bake Cod and Parmesan Crusted Fillets, Gorton’s has recently focused on increasing production to ensure it continues to meet the elevated demand.
“Our priorities for 2020 shifted due to the pandemic as we needed to ensure we could keep up with the significant spike in demand,” Hogan said.
The company added co-manufacturing partners and increased its own workforce by 25 percent and added more production shifts, including weekend shifts. Hogan said that required taking proactive steps to ensure workplace safety, specifically around COVID-19.
“The pandemic drove unprecedented rapid demand for frozen seafood. We implemented a series of changes to meet this heightened demand, but our first step and top priority was to implement safety measures to ensure our employees remained safe,” he said. “The impact of these changes and others have allowed us to build inventory, fill the pipeline, and ultimately our customers’ shelves.’”
Hogan said Gorton’s expects another big year for seafood sold at retail.
“While other categories slowed down after the initial stock-up period in March/April of 2020, the frozen seafood category did not,” he said. “As we move past the pandemic, people will begin venturing out more and getting back into a routine of eating at their favorite restaurants. However, many will continue to follow some of their most-enjoyed, newfound, at-home cooking habits. Seafood at home is a new habit we believe has long-term sticking power.”
Simultaneously, Gorton’s has launched a new consumer education campaign that touts seafood’s nutritional benefits and offers recipe suggestions.
“We wanted to ensure that each new consumer had a positive experience and understood how seafood could, and should, become part of their weekly meal plans moving forward,” Hogan said. “We pivoted quickly to focus more on recipe inspiration and showing consumers how they could easily use our products in their favorite dishes, right out of their freezers. We felt it was important to provide consumers with the confidence and inspiration to cook seafood in the comfort of their own homes.”
The new “It’s Seafood Time” integrated marketing campaign is now running both through traditional television advertising as well as through social media. It aims to inspire consumers with “delicious, easy-to-prepare meal ideas and recipes that can be part of their weekly meal plans,” Gorton’s Vice President of Marketing Chris Hussey told SeafoodSource.
“New dietary guidelines suggest that consumers of all ages eat seafood at least twice a week, and we know that the average consumer is looking for ways to incorporate more seafood into their diets,” Hussey said. “Our new integrated marketing campaign addresses this need by helping consumers to reimagine seafood and how it fits into their daily lives, reminding them about all of the benefits our products offer – from high quality ingredients, omega-3s and protein, sustainable sourcing, and versatility, to unsurpassed fresh taste.”
Gorton’s increased its advertising and marketing budget this year, Hussey said.
“[It’s] such a critically important time to engage with new and existing seafood consumers, to ensure they are informed on the many benefits of frozen seafood, and that they stay in the category,” Hussey said. “The pandemic has brought unprecedented trial to our category, and we believe that consumer and marketplace trends point to long-term sustained growth for frozen seafood.”
Hussey said the company wants to ensure it remains top-of-mind for consumers who have tried its products for the first time this year and who are now hooked on seafood.
“We can play an important role in driving that long-term growth by elevating consumers experiences and showcasing seafood benefits," Hussey said.
Photo courtesy of Gorton’s