Road to Boston: Seal resonating with consumers
As it marks the one-year anniversary of its sustainable seafood seal, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) looks to maintain the credibility of its program as well as build on the progress that it’s made in the past year by signing on new suppliers, retailers and seafood species.
Seven suppliers and four retailers — Hannaford Bros., Shaw’s, Big Y and Giant Eagle — are now involved in the program. The Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested Seafood seal now appears on eight species — cod, haddock, Atlantic pollock, whiting, redfish, American lobster, northern shrimp and scallops.
Launched in late February 2011, the program — which is designed to ensure consumers that the seafood they’re purchasing is responsibly harvested and traceable to the Gulf of Maine region — has received a lot of positive feedback in its first year, Jen Levin, GMRI’s sustainable seafood program manager, told SeafoodSource on Tuesday.
It’s also helped clear up a common misperception among consumers that certain Gulf of Maine stocks are being overfished. To verify whether a stock meets its criteria, GMRI reviews stock assessments and management plans of federal and state agencies as well as consults with fisheries managers and scientists to gain greater context.
“There’s one [consumer] who didn’t really buy seafood [due to overfishing concerns] but now buys exclusively from Hannaford because of the seal,” said Levin. The seal is “a great opportunity for suppliers to differentiate their product in the marketplace and a great opportunity for both suppliers and retailers to support seafood that comes from a place that they care about.”
Levin attributes much of the program’s success to the seven licensed suppliers, who helped raise awareness among retailers. Hannaford has been involved in the program since its inception, but Shaw’s, Big Y and Giant Eagle were drawn to the program because the suppliers promoted it so well, she said.
“I’m really impressed by the dealers for adopting the program early on and committing to what it stands for,” said Levin. “I’d really like to give a shout out to their involvement and their commitment.”
Cozy Harbor Seafood, a Portland, Maine, lobster, shrimp and finfish processor, is among those seven licensed suppliers and has been involved in the program since the beginning.
“With Hannaford and the other retailers, their interest is the same as ours, to make consumers more comfortable with the seafood that they’re purchasing,” said John Norton, president of Cozy Harbor. “One of the big advantages of the program is that, in the retail seafood case, products aren’t really branded. Consumers know they’re buying, say, haddock, but that’s about it. The program gives the product provenance, so they know where it’s coming from.”
Also participating in the program are North Atlantic Seafood and Bristol Seafood, both of Portland, Maine; Sanders Lobster of Portsmouth, N.H.; and Slade Gorton & Co., North Coast Seafood and Sousa Seafood, all of Boston.