Marketing playing key role in expansion of South Africa’s seafood industry

Sea Harvest Group Limited Head of Marketing Jared Patel receiving the Mondelēz 2022 Rising Star of the Year Award.

Cape Town, South Africa-based Sea Harvest Group Limited head of marketing Jared Patel was recently named the Mondelēz 2022 Rising Star of the Year Award at the 2022 Marketing Achievement Awards. In an interview with SeafoodSource, Patel reviewed the emerging seafood marketing trends for products in South Africa.

SeafoodSource: What contribution is marketing marking towards growth in sales of fish products in South Africa? What are some of the challenges you have identified in the marketing of fish products there?

Patel: In the consumer goods space in retail South Africa, fish products are competing against all the other proteins, a lot of which are cheaper and have a higher penetration. Consumers in South Africa have probably been exposed to canned fish, but the penetration of frozen fish is still relatively low. Frozen fish has a penetration of about 50 percent of the South African market mainly due to higher relative pricing and a large portion of the market not being accustomed to eating fish.

Chicken, on the other hand, has a 99 percent market penetration. A big part of our challenge is to educate consumers about the benefit of including more fish in their diets, getting them to try our delicious frozen fish products, and showing them how to cook frozen fish in different ways, thereby creating versatility for their weekly menus. Marketing of fish products must, therefore, maintain this focus on educating consumers who do not include enough fish in their diet, while reminding existing consumers about the benefits of continuing to purchase. For these reasons, by continuing to invest in marketing, we can ensure continued growth in seafood sales.

SeafoodSource: What are some of the packaging strategies you have used to market South African seafood products to both domestic and international consumers?

Patel: In the domestic market, having an emphasis on beautiful recipe images with a very clear customer proposition and information that the customer needs clearly laid out on front of pack is very important. We have also recently placed QR codes on front of pack and created a mobile phone web-based portal linking consumers to product specific recipes, product information, reviews, and competitions. This increases the interaction with the packs, which are normally seen as quite cold and unfriendly.

In the international market, we try to take a similar approach, but with a little more emphasis on Sea Harvest and the South African industry’s advanced processing and value-adding capabilities that deliver high-quality products, the sustainability and health of the resource, and the stability of supply.

SeafoodSource: What are some of the factors that are driving seafood marketing in South Africa?

Patel: The competitive landscape of protein and consumer goods in general drives the need to market seafood in South Africa, paired with a need to educate a large portion of the South African market on how and why to include fish in a diet. For example, to address these issues, Sea Harvest launched two initiatives, including an Instagram Page called “Fish n Tips” which features easy-to-follow one-minute recipe videos to inspire cooking with fish more often.

We also aired a YouTube series called “Fact or Fishy” to address frequently asked questions about the fishing industry and educate people on all relevant issues, not just recipe-related questions.

SeafoodSource: What kind of seafood product labeling regulations exist in South Africa, and how in your view does this impact the overall marketing in the industry?

Patel: South Africa has very stringent food labeling regulations, which are always trying to protect the best interests of the consumer. These regulations ensure that consumers are not misled and adds credibility to the status of packaged goods in the country. In addition, our marketing efforts are supported by well-recognized and trusted endorsements from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, and unique product information, such as the rich omega-3 content in fish.

SeafoodSource: Who are some of the agents engaged in South Africa’s seafood marketing, and what are some of the emerging trends that ensure these agents successfully connect seafood producers and consumers both in and out of South Africa?

Patel: As a vertically integrated company, we take it upon ourselves to make the connection with consumers, but we do obviously have agents in distribution and advertising, both locally and abroad, to assist in helping us expanding our marketing and sales footprint. The emerging trends that we have strategically aligned ourselves to as a business include a shift toward cleaner and healthier eating by linking our products to the effort and attributes associated with wild capture fishing; More-convenient serving solutions and products formats to amplify the convenience and goodness of frozen seafood; A non-negotiable attitude to food sustainability and environmental consciousness; And inspiring consumers to use our products in many varied ways.

SeafoodSource: What are the most-prevalent seafood marketing channels in South Africa?

Patel: Sea Harvest uses a diversity of channels, such as television and radio advertising, live activations in store, and custom-built food trucks to promote trials around retail stores. However, digital, and particularly social media marketing, have been the most prevalent marketing channels in recent years, giving its ability to reach, target, and educate consumers.  

Photo courtesy of Sea Harvest Group


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