Sales pitch for U.S. certified tuna
Producers of sustainable Northwest U.S. albacore tuna are promoting their product more in the U.S. after a drop in demand from Europe.
“We ship quite a bit of fish to Europe — particularly Spain — and the economy there is so uncertain,” said Wayne Heikkila, executive director of Redding, Calif.-based Western Fishboat Owners Association.
Around one-third of WFOA’s MSC-certified albacore catch is still shipped to Europe, one-third is shipped to Japan (particularly sashimi grade albacore), and one-third is marketed to high end restaurants and retailers in the U.S.
In the U.S., WFOA primarily supplies its tuna to smaller canners such as Pelican Packers, Wild Pacific Seafoods, and Wild Planet Foods.
Pelican Packers, a mail-order tuna company, has realized continually increasing sales without advertising. “People are actively searching the web and come to us because they are looking for troll-caught tuna. In the past six months, we have been getting more and more new customers,” said Stephanie Hopkinson, marketing and sales director for Pelican Packers.
Consumers are also looking for tuna that is lower in mercury and some studies show that troll-caught tuna is lower in mercury, according to Hopkinson.
Meanwhile, WFOA has stepped up its efforts to promote the sustainable albacore more in the U.S. “We are trying to promote the fact that it is local, wild albacore off the West Coast of the U.S.,” Heikkila said.
To that end, WFOA has been more involved in demonstrations and trade shows. “Once you get a taste of the fish, you realize what you had been eating does not taste like tuna,” Heikkila said.
WFOA has increased marketing communication via social media and its web sites, which include PacificAlbacore.com and WFOA-Tuna.org.
This year, landings of all Pacific Northwest albacore tuna was around 11,000 metric tons with a lower ex-vessel price. “There was a large supply of fish left over from the previous year, so the price was not as good as last year,” Heikkila said.