Maine Department of Marine Resources launches seafood branding effort
The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has launched a new marketing effort intended to promote the state’s seafood products through a branding effort to boost sales for the industry.
The new launch establishes a seafood brand for the Northeast U.S. state, using USD 1 million (EUR 825,527) of the state's allocated USD 20 million (EUR 16.5 million) in CARES Act relief funding. The initiative will emphasize the qualities distinguishing Maine seafood, and will use multiple media channels to reach food-oriented audiences, according to the Maine DMR.
The marketing drive came about due to a survey that the Maine DMR conducted when determining how to spend CARES Act funds, Maine DMR Communications Director Jeff Nichols told SeafoodSource.
“Our objective is to create a unified brand that represents all of the attributes of what is a very diverse industry in Maine,” Nichols said.
Access to Maine seafood, Nichols said, has been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically reduced restaurant visits nationwide. In the meantime, retail sales of seafood have dramatically increased, presenting opportunities for the state’s seafood industry.
“Our role is to help consumers seek out, find, and enjoy Maine seafood in the comfort and safety of their own home,” Nichols said. “Part of that challenge is helping consumers find Maine seafood, so we’re going to be working through social media channels, traditional media, influential food writers to develop how-to information on how to prepare Maine seafood.”
The marketing effort won’t be the first in the state that aims to create a unified Maine brand. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) has for multiple years promoted the state’s lobster fishery. Nichols said that the latest marketing effort is working with the MLMC and its Executive Director Marianne LaCroix to coordinate the marketing effort.
“We’re trying to work in concert with the collaborative and make sure we’re not duplicating any effort that they’re undertaking,” Nichols said. We don’t need to reinvent that wheel, they’ve already done an excellent job for Maine lobster.”
Part of the marketing effort will establish a new directory of suppliers that can allow consumers to find a retailer selling Maine seafood. The website also features recipes, and guides on preparing the seafood.
“Through developing recipes and other information on how to safely prepare and handle seafood, we’re trying to help consumers overcome any misgivings about purchasing and preparing Maine seafood,” Nichols said.
The new initiative has garnered support for Maine Governor Janet Mills, who emphasized the vital part seafood plays in Maine’s economy.
“With more Maine people cooking from home, we have an opportunity to support Maine’s seafood industry by promoting the premium products we produce here at home,” Mills said in a press release. “This initiative will support a vital sector of our state’s economy and connect consumers with high-quality seafood produced in the U.S. at a critical time.”
For now, the branding effort is in “Phase 1,” which is the launch and establishment of resources. Phase 2 of the program involves building out the website, adding to the supplier directory, and improving the directory’s functionality. In addition, Maine DMR is establishing social media channels, and is reaching out to food publications like Food and Wine to promote Maine seafood.
The current level of funding from the CARES Act will allow the program to run through July of 2021, with the assets that are developed through the new program being saved for future use. Future funding would require further action.
“The conversation with industry moving forward, I’m sure, will evolve,” Nichols said. “The extent to which we can actually continue to move this program forward is obviously dependent on funding.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, Nichols said, obviously presents challenges the seafood industry, but those challenges could also be an opportunity to establish Maine seafood in the minds of consumers.
“There’s an increasing interest from consumers to have this exceptional culinary experience with seafood,” Nichols said. “We have this challenge and opportunity that really is part of what is spurring this initiative.”