Craig Morris , May 21, 2019

Achieving Success Through Risk

It’s graduation season and I know many colleagues and friends have celebrated their children’s milestones—or will over the next several weekends. This past weekend, the National Mall here in D.C. was overrun with graduates from the George Washington University (or GW) who have the privilege of graduating in the shadow of our nation’s capital monuments. Normally I wouldn’t pay this annual occurrence much mind, however Savannah Guthrie delivered GW’s commencement address this year—and as an avid Today show fan, when I saw the transcript of her speech on social media I felt compelled to read it.

I don’t remember my own gradation speakers words of wisdom, and while most speeches follow a typical narrative arc about how the speaker overcame challenges to arrive at their eventual success—usually peppered with humor and life lessons—I will complement Savannah on the portion of her speech that described risk taking.

Coming from the red meat side of the protein equation, I often espoused that we needed, as an industry, to take more risks. To be bold. To innovate. I wasn’t shy in my advice that we needed to be proactive and think big.

I couldn’t help but marvel as I was in Europe the last few weeks at just how many product innovations are coming to market and how well many of those innovations would do here in the States. I also couldn’t help but compliment our industry for just how “on trend” we are—I toured countless facilities that were ramping up their ready-to-eat meal capabilities, leaning into frozen meal preparations and featuring proper portion sizes and healthy eating options—all things that consumers consistently crave at astounding rates.

As Ms. Guthrie stated in her speech: “I can’t tell you where your fulfillment and happiness will be found. I can’t tell you were your dream is. Only you know that…But I can tell you where it isn’t. It isn’t’ in your comfort zone. It isn’t in your wheelhouse. It’s not where you feel safe. It’s not where conditions are perfect. It is not where you are usually right and rarely challenged.”

I couldn’t agree more. Our industry’s success is going to depend on us taking risks and challenging ourselves to think outside of the typical, to think outside of our wheelhouses. I observed product development in Europe—one of the most price sensitive and challenging markets in the world for food—and yet processors over there are using Wild Alaska Pollock in new and exciting ways all in an attempt to attract new consumers to our fish and get them to think about our product in ways they never have before.

We have the benefit of having a fish with an incredible story and incredible versatility—a product that fits the bill for what many millennials and Gen-zers are looking for in their food purchasing decisions. But those demographics are also craving excitement, adventure, passion and vigor in their food options and we have to deliver. We can’t put the same old product forth and expect the same results. We have to innovate. We have to get creative. We have to push each other to take the leap.

After all, history favors the bold. As Ms. Guthrie argued, “success is on the other side of risk. It’s on the other side of a bold choice. It’s on the other edge, waiting for you, on the other side of our fear.”

Now I know that’s easy for me to say, sitting here not worried about market conditions and purchasing power and price. But those are words I’m taking to heart when it comes to driving the strategy of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers as well. We are not going to sit back and wait for interested decision makers or consumers to come to us to learn more about our perfect protein.

Nay, we are going to take the dialogue to them—engage them in the ways that they’re seeking to be engaged and meet them where they are. We’re going to be dynamic, and passionate and fun and flirty and we’re going to do it all in the name of building awareness and demand for Wild Alaska Pollock. Through our North American Partnership Program we’re funding some incredible initiatives that are bringing Wild Alaska Pollock to new channels, new consumers and new customers in new ways—from the famed and award winning Trident Protein Noodles (which just won another award at the National Restaurant Association show) to True North’s new Martha Stewart products—to Gorton’s partnership with Antoni Porowski—we’re betting on industry partners that are taking risks and leaning in to risk.

We need not to stick to what’s safe, or “the plan” and we need to venture, boldly, into the unknown, the new, the risky. We need to try—nay, forge—our new path for Wild Alaska Pollock.

Just like Savannah urged the class of 2019 to do, we need to jump. And we need to do it together. 

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