ASMI hosts group of European women seafood buyers at Alaska’s Dutch Harbor
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) hosted its first ever all-female trade mission recently, with seven European seafood buyers touring Dutch Harbor, Alaska, home to one of the world’s most lucrative fishing ports.
The women represented companies that import some USD 60 million (EUR 48.9 million) in U.S. seafood to France, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Hannah Lindoff, ASMI’s international program coordinator, said the idea for a trade mission featuring women came about after a convention of women in seafood in Seattle last year.
“It struck me how wonderfully bonding that was for the women who were there. Most of the time our missions include women, but they’ve never been predominantly women, and we’ve had missions that just don’t include any at all,” she said. “We felt that actively recruiting women would help us create this special experience. And also, a lot of the women said that had the mission been gender neutral their company might not have picked them.”
Lindoff pointed out that ASMI’s target market for many years has been female shoppers and that more and more the marketing side of the business is becoming female-centric. She said the mission was a way for ASMI to reach out to women in other sectors of the seafood industry.
Alice Ottoson-McKeen, the assistant program coordinator for ASMI, travelled with the group to the remote port. The women toured boats and facilities and chatted with crew members, captains, and people on the floor in the processors.
“We were lucky to tour a couple different vessels. We got to meet the crew on those boats and it was just really special. They were just so happy to talk to the buyers and show them how they go about things, because they obviously take a lot of pride in how sustainable and wild our seafood is,” Ottoson-McKeen said.
They got an up close look at the pollock, cod, and crab operations, which were all in season during the trip, and Lindoff said the buyers were also interested in markets for other Alaska seafood species like octopus, black cod, and salmon. Lindoff said most of the women were already buying Alaska seafood and they hoped to strengthen ties with them, while others were new to the market.
“One thing that really stuck with these women was seeing how they fully utilize the catch in these processing plants,” Ottoson-McKeen said. “For example, in the pollock plant they’re processing fillets and surimi all at the same time, and for cod they do the roe and some oil and milt, which is a very high-value product.”
The delegation got a tour from Dutch Harbor’s mayor Frank Kelty, whom Ottoson-McKeen described as “a wealth of knowledge” and good conduit for helping the buyers understand how the fishing industry supports the state of Alaska, and vice versa.
“The point of these trips is to build a lasting bond with our customers and to showcase not just the pristine, beautiful environment where their fish is coming from, but also the care the Alaska seafood industry puts into processing and the major efforts and time and money we put into sustainability in this state,” Lindoff said.