Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative receives industry approval for 2018
The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, an industry-funded effort to promote lobster across the United States, has received unanimous approval from Maine’s Lobster Advisory Council and its seven lobster zone councils to continue to receive funding for 2018, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Established in 2013, the collaborative has a USD 2.2 million (EUR 1.9 million) annual budget and is funded by Maine lobster dealers, processors and harvesters. The approvals it has received makes it highly likely that it will be reauthorized by Maine’s legislature in the coming year.
However, during hearings on the collaborative this fall, fishermen and dealers complained about the organization’s effectiveness and focus. John Hathaway, president of Shucks Maine Lobster, told the newspaper he was frustrated with the collaborative.
“I don’t know one dealer that has ever said they’ve made one dollar off this,” Hathaway said.
Critics want the collaborative to focus on extending the new-shell consumer season into the fall and to push for the state government to help financially support lobster marketing efforts. Dealers like Hathaway have also asked for the organization to focus more of its effort into growing the international market for lobsters. Both fishermen and dealers would also like to see more solid data on how the collaborative’s efforts are boosting the industry’s bottom line.
The collaborative has spent more than USD 6.25 million (EUR 5.3 million) in the past five years on its efforts, which have mainly focused on targeting chefs at high-end restaurants in the continental United States. The group’s executive director, Matt Jacobson, said the strategy was chosen as the most effective for the budget available.
“The chefs eat it up,” Jacobson said. “I’ve never had one who didn’t put Maine new shell on their menu after talking with one of our guys. It works every single time.”
He said the story of Maine lobster was a highly effective selling point, and that the organization was focused on making sure the story is told more, and in more influential culinary circles.
"We aren’t making a sales pitch,” said collaborative director Matt Jacobson. “We want as many people as we can to talk about our story. That’s what sells lobster.”
Jacobson said he would like to have multiple marketing campaigns running simultaneously, including an effort aimed at Europe and Asia, but said it wasn’t possible due to the size of the organization’s budget. He said the collaborative’s budget pales in comparison to the budgets of other regional food products, such as California avocados, Georgia peaches, or California almonds.
The industry also faces challenges that cannot be tackled by the marketing collaborative, such as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and weather-related issues.
The collaborative is seeking funding for a further five-year period – a decision that will be made by the individual lobster zone councils and the Lobster Advisory Council in 2018.