"No Show Fish Show" seeks silver lining in Seafood Expo North America postponement

A number of seafood companies that were planning on exhibiting at or holding events during Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. – postponed by organizer Diversified Communications last week due to the COVID-19 outbreak – are going ahead with online versions of those meetings and live social media demonstrations.

In an effort being coordinated by Jennifer Bushman, principal of Route to Market, a strategic development consultant for aquaculture companies, this ad hoc group of seafood companies have joined together on a social media and publicity campaign dubbed the “No Show Fish Show.”

The campaign sprung from a conversation between Bushman and Bill Hewitt, a sales manager for Kvaroy Arctic, as to what companies could do in the wake of Seafood Expo North America’s postponement.

“This happened throughout the East Coast decades ago, because most companies did not want to attend or could not afford to do food shows. They would print flyers, call customers,” Hewitt told SeafoodSource. “I thought it could apply as a solution to what was happening once Seafood Expo North America was postponed and beyond.”

The campaign is an opportunity for the industry to come together and “keep things moving during this time,” Bushman said. The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is likely to get worse before it gets better, she predicted, and “our industry has to figure out what we are going to do in the next few months.”

The campaign includes dedicated LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages that companies can use to network and discuss their products.

“It is an alignment of the entire industry to work and support one another … it is the journey that we have all committed to,” Hewitt said. “We have to show that the industry is alive, well, and ready to support the food community no matter what happens.”

Kvaroy rebooked all of its meetings that would have happened on the show floor to virtual meetings, Hewitt said.

“The story of Kvarøy Arctic needs to be told and the journey to bring it to market must continue regardless of the issues happening in the world,” he said.

Kvaroy will feature CEO Alf-Gøran Knutsen and Top Chef contestant Adrienne Cheatham in all of its online meetings, discussing Kvaroy’s farm in Norway and conducting “virtual” tastings of the fish. Kvarøy doesn’t anticipate a negative impact on sales and plans to exhibit at Seafood Expo North America once it is rescheduled for later this year, Hewitt said.

Kvaroy is also still going ahead with small brunches and dinner 15 and 16 March in Boston, via a partnership with Dole and Bailey.

“Being America’s oldest certified woman-owned meat and seafood purveyor, we have the power and flexibility to transform negative situations into something creative and positive,” Dole and Bailey President and CEO Nancy Matheson-Burns told SeafoodSource.

The SENA postponement “is a matter of perspective,” Matheson-Burns added. “We have chosen to view [it] as an opportunity to get intimate with our customers and suppliers and continue to build our seafood relationships. We will continue all planned events and promotions.”

Dole and Bailey’s marketing team has coordinated online meetings, seasonal sales promotions, and incentives that will be part of its No Show Fish Show participation.

Similarly, Pacifico Aquaculture executives are in the process of setting up virtual meetings for next week. In addition, the aquaculture producer’s culinary specialist, who was gong to prepare dishes utilizing its striped bass farmed in Mexico at its SENA booth, will now hold virtual demonstrations via Pacifico’s social media channels.

The campaign “brings together the entire industry in a way that connects us more strongly,” Pacifico Senior Sales Manager Chris Cumming told SeafoodSource. “We have to all work together to get through the toughest of times.”

Coming said travel restrictions are making business hard to do globally, but that his company was trying to do everything it could to get business done.

“Many of our customers have now imposed a travel hold. We have beautiful fish coming into market that we want to make sure gets to them as smoothly as before,” Cumming said. “Meeting them in whatever space they are most comfortable and delivering a fish that everyone loves is our main goal.”

Cummings said Pacifico will participate at Seafood Expo North America once it is rescheduled.

“When [Diversified is] ready to move forward again, we will be there [exhibiting],” he said.

Mark Foods is also still moving forward with many of its meetings that were planned during SENA, via remote connection, Lauren Enz, the company’s vice president of business development, told SeafoodSource.

“For most key customers, we will just plan to travel and meet face-to-face with over the next 30 to 60 days as needed,” she added.

For seafood-focused non-governmental organizations – many of which built annual grant deliverables around presentations at the expo – finding a way forward has meant moving online for public outreach.

The Women in Seafood session, which was organized by the James Beard Foundation to take place at the expo, will now take place in the form of a webinar on 18 March, from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

"It is important to go ahead with James Beard Foundation and SENA events to keep the momentum up related to women in seafood – especially important during women’s month [Women's History Month],” James Beard Foundation Impact Programs Manager for Sustainability Sarah Drew told SeafoodSource. “Stories and voices need to be heard and we feel the need to provide a space and platform for women’s voices in the industry.”

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability will also move its SENA presentation online with a webinar, titled “GDST 1.0 - Launching New Traceability Standards to Grow Our Industry" and hosted by SeafoodSource as the official media for Seafood Expo North America, that will introduce its new traceability standards.

And the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, will take part in a SeafoodSource webinar to introduce its new “Seafood MAP” program, which will collect, process and present credible information on the environmental, economic, and social performance of seafood production systems globally.


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