Q&A: Pascale Etrillard, Connetable
The French market for sustainable seafood appears to be maturing as consumer expectations grow. Connetable, which has specialized in canned fish for more than 150 years, has tapped into this burgeoning opportunity, recently launching a range of Marine Stewardship Council-certified canned fish products. SeafoodSource caught up with Pascale Etrillard, Connetable's director of marketing, to find out more about the French company’s latest moves, including its involvement in the MSC program.
Partos: When did you launch your MSC-labeled products — longfin tuna (tunny), wild salmon and mackerel fillets — in the French market?
Etrillard: In spring 2008, we launched our range of MSC eco-labeled preserved fish for export to Switzerland and the Netherlands. As a result of their success, we took the decision to launch a range of sustainable fish products in the French market. The products were presented to our clients at the end of 2008. They were unanimously welcomed, and we launched the eco-label range in March 2009.
What drove your decision?
Connetable has always placed a great deal of importance on the quality of its supplies. This allows us to differentiate from our competitors and to propose to consumers products of superior quality — our “Label Rouge” range, line-caught tuna. In launching our MSC range, we made the choice to become the first player in the French market to offer a range of tinned fish with the MSC eco-label.
Demand for fish products has grown considerably in the last 20 years. Ensuring supplies are from responsible fisheries engaged in sustainable fishing, Connetable made the choice to engage itself so that future generations can also enjoy natural resources from the sea.
Does Connetable work directly with MSC fisheries?
Our supply network, from different regions across the world, enabled us to source from MSC-certified fisheries. Longfin tuna (tunny), line or rod-caught, comes from the Pacific, the mackerel [is sourced] from the North Atlantic, and the salmon is sourced from Alaska.
Where are Connetable’s MSC products canned?
Connetable’s MSC range is tinned at our canning factory in Douarnenez [France]. Our production site received MSC certification in October 2007. In fact, it’s not enough when commercializing MSC products to only source the fish from certified fisheries. We were certified by an independent organization in order to obtain MSC certification, and we are regularly inspected.
What challenges do you face in growing sales of your MSC products?
Consumers need to have a better knowledge of the eco-label in order to enable the MSC label to develop in France. Because sustainable fishing and the MSC logo are not that well-known, we must educate them about MSC, the benefits of sustainable fishing, clearly present the logo. We have started to communicate in the press, and now our wish is to be more visible at points-of-sale.
How do your MSC products relate in price to their non-MSC certified equivalents?
The MSC-labeled products are 20 to 30 percent more expensive than their non-MSC equivalents. Choosing the sustainable range does involve a financial effort from the consumer.
Is price the greatest growth barrier for MSC-certified canned fish?
The higher price for canned MSC fish could indeed influence purchasing decisions. But the lack of awareness regarding MSC products is also a further barrier, which demonstrates the importance for all to communicate this choice for sustainable fishing.
How are you working to increase consumer awareness of the MSC in France?
We communicate in the written press to a wide public. For example, we have circulated in the culinary press articles that explain the MSC, and the advantage of sustainable fishing for the consumer and the planet. This is backed up by constant contact with journalists who have shown a particular interest in the MSC range.
Which French retailers sell your MSC products?
Today our MSC products are available in Carrefour, Géant, Monoprix, in certain Leclerc shops et also at Système U.