Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative appoints executive director
After searching since December, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) this week appointed Matt Jacobson, former president and CEO of Maine & Company, as executive director.
The organization conducted a worldwide search before choosing Jacobson, who has 20 years of experience in senior leadership positions, along with sales and marketing positions. Jacobson will help the collaborative promote Maine lobster to U.S. chefs and consumers this year, and then the organization will expand their efforts to other countries and buyers.
“Ultimately, we would like to make sure we are raising the value for everybody in the supply chain, from the fishermen all the way to the processors and the dealers. It is a USD 1 billion (EUR 739 million) industry in Maine, so it is a sizable chunk of our state product…and we take it very seriously,” Jacobson told SeafoodSource.
It was Maine lobstermen who pushed the state legislature to increase funding for lobster promotion last year. The state allotted USD 750,000 (EUR 554,381) to MLMC this year, USD 1.5 million (EUR 1.1 million) in 2015, and USD 2.2 million (EUR 1.6 million) annually for 2016-2018.
“It gives us a great opportunity. All of the funding comes from the industry,” Marianne LaCroix, interim executive director of the MLMC, told SeafoodSource.
“We are at a perfect storm of opportunity, which made it attractive to me,” Jacobson agreed. “I think we can win, especially because of the sustainability of the fishery, the abundance of the resource, and the real community around this project.”
Jacobson led Maine & Company, a non-profit business consulting and leadership organization that attracts companies to Maine. “We were trying to drive interest, [demonstrating that] Maine is the place [to be]. We sold hardworking lobstermen, part and parcel, to the companies, and we helped seafood companies get established,” he said.
With the MLMC, Jacobson believes the goals are similar. “It is building these relationships and awareness and handing those off to the industry, if they want to fulfill it.”
This year, the MLMC is educating chefs from around the U.S. about “what makes Maine lobster special,” LaCroix said. The organization has paid for chefs’ trips to Maine, showing them how lobster is caught and used. In addition, the organization’s partnership with the Culinary Institute of America resulted in a retreat with corporate chefs. “We brought in a top chef to demo recipes and gave them background information on sustainability,” LaCroix said.
MLMC is also developing videos and other educational materials for chefs on its web site.
Later this year, MLMC plans to target specific cities with media and advertising efforts. “It will be major markets: probably some of the 20 top media markets,” Jacobson said.
While MLMC is focused on promoting lobster in the U.S. this year, it will also focus on marketing Maine lobster to Asia over the next few years.