Fishermen partner to distinguish PEI brand
One Prince Edward Island fish coop manager is on a mission to make lobster, crab and other seafood from PEI stand apart from all other seafood.
"For the most part, our seafood is labeled, 'Product of Canada.' It is all the same," said Eric Wagner, manager of Hardy's Channel Fish Coop and a lobsterman in Ellerslie, PEI.
Buyers from other countries buy Prince Edward Island seafood, process it and repackage it as their own, Wagner pointed out. The fishermen don't have much control over the quality or branding of the product.
With the new fishermen's coop that Wagner has formed - PEI Premium Seafood - processors would act as partners with the fishermen. The fishermen investors in PEI Premium Seafood - around 60 so far - plan to market a PEI brand that demonstrates consistency and quality, and gives some profits back to the fishermen.
"We want to put our packaging in place and our quality control in the plant, instead of the current way: a U.S. company, for example, purchases PEI seafood, makes a product out of it, markets the product and keeps all the profits," said Wagner.
In addition, the coop's goal is to familiarize consumers with the value and quality of PEI seafood.
"We have a story that can go on a menu, and is going to sell our seafood. We are going to have a more intimate relationship with the consumer," said Wagner.
Wagner's ultimate goal is to have between 500 and 600 PEI fishermen - about half of the industry in the region - involved in PEI Premium Seafood. The coop plans to launch its brand at the International Boston Seafood Show next year. However, "I think we are going to have sales sooner than that," said Wagner.
PEI Premium Seafood plans to set up a blog and YouTube videos so consumers can follow participating fishermen. The coop already has a web site set up at www.lobsterguys.com, and a Twitter account.