Shelf-stable seafood resurgence?


Steven Hedlund

Published on
June 21, 2010

The economic downturn has benefited the shelf-stable seafood category, as cost-conscious Americans increasingly look to value-oriented food items like canned and pouched tuna and salmon.

For the 52 weeks ending 12 June, retail volume sales of canned and pouched tuna products are up 12.7 percent from the previous year.

But value and affordability aren’t the only factors driving the resurgence of the once stagnant the shelf-stable seafood category, which has struggled to attract new users in recent years.

Shelf-stable seafood marketers are ramping up their marketing efforts by promoting their products as affordable, nutritious and convenient.

But they’re also trying to sway consumers to get creative and think beyond traditional uses such as the ubiquitous tuna-salad sandwich. For example, pink salmon pizza, smoked salmon tacos and tuna burgers are among the meals featured on “The Balancing Act” TV show on Lifetime, which is part of Chicken of the Sea’s new SuperCook marketing campaign, launched on 15 May.

The San Diego company is inviting home cooks nationwide to share their recipes using any Chicken of the Sea product. The grand-prize winner will receive USD 10,000 in cash and appear on The Balancing Act, and the recipe will be added to a Chicken of the Sea product package. The first-place winner will receive USD 3,000 in cash, and the recipe will be added to a Chicken of the Sea product package. The second- and third-place winners will receive USD 2,500 and USD 2,000 in cash, respectively.

About one-third of the way through the content, which wraps up on 15 August, Chicken of the Sea has already received a few hundred recipes, said John Sawyer, the company’s senior VP of sales and marketing. In the last two years, Chicken of the Sea has garnered 1.8 billion impressions through marketing campaigns such last year’s collaboration with “The Celebrity Apprentice” TV show, he explained.

“This is a very big program [SuperCook] for us,” Sawyer told SeafoodSource on Tuesday. “We usually don’t spend a ton [on marketing].”

Chicken of the Sea isn’t alone. In February, StarKist launched “Have You Been StarKist?” and brought back the iconic Charlie the Tuna — it’s the Pittsburgh company’s biggest marketing campaign in a decade. The effort also features celebrity chef and TV personality Sandra Lee, who kicked off a five-city U.S. tour early this month.

Bumble Bee is also getting in on the act, pushing the health message. In April, the San Diego company promoted that it made “significant sodium reductions” across its line of canned albacore and light-meat tuna.

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