October 25, 2021

Making it Last: Building Relationships to Put Wild Alaska Pollock on Menus in Chicago

 

Wild Alaska Pollock has graced the menus of some amazing restaurants over the last few years. Before the plague of COVID hit, the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) partnered with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) to put Wild Alaska Pollock on the menus of some of the best eateries in Seattle for a two-week promotional period. The restaurants received the product for free and were able to let their creativity flow freely, creating some amazing dishes to delight diners.

It was in Seattle we discovered one of the biggest challenges our fish faces: the lack of restaurant distributors that know-of, much less carry and stock, our perfect protein. In Seattle, chefs got our Wild Alaska Pollock products direct-delivered for the promotion—and thereafter had a hard time tracking down the products to continue to menu Wild Alaska Pollock. Hysterically, we even had a James Beard award-winning Chef calling one of our GAPP team members for months afterward, asking if he could get some more Wild Alaska Pollock to keep his special tartine on the menu.

Much as we loved to hear from him, the way orders were getting fulfilled was, obviously, less than ideal.

When COVID shut down restaurants from coast to coast, GAPP wanted to help—and also saw a huge opportunity to introduce more chefs to this affordable, versatile whitefish that could replace some of their higher-cost options. But we wanted to do things differently; going through the proper channels and building relationships with distributors so that the chefs that fell in love with Wild Alaska Pollock could continue to order it. We wanted our fish to have the permanence, to have the staying power.

During our Dine-Out-to-Help-Out campaign last Fall in Nashville, we forged relationships with three major seafood distributors and countless restaurants who plated our Wild Alaska Pollock in many new and exciting ways. While the effort took much longer—GAPP even paid the slotting fee for Wild Alaska Pollock products with some of the distributors—ultimately, the hard work created a permanence that chefs in the area could leverage for years to come.

We also learned a lot from those first chefs; that our fish cooks incredibly quickly and is so lean that it pairs beautifully with fattier proteins like chorizo or bacon.

Those lessons helped us as we launched our—now third—restaurant week in Chicago or the “windy city” last week. Chefs from eight restaurants across the city worked with us and through our new distributor relationships in Chicago—to order everything from Perfect Pollock Portions to Alaska Wild Wings to Redi Cuts to even the "real seafood" surimi for an epic surimi risotto at one of Chicago’s fanciest spots.

By all accounts, the dishes are delighting diners from carnivores to pescatarians and everyone in between. And the timing couldn’t be better for us to engage with consumers about the attributes—including our incredibly low carbon footprint—of Wild Alaska Pollock given that we’re smack dab in the middle of National Seafood Month.

We chose Chicago specifically because the cities' vibrant restaurant scene was hit especially hard by COVID and the city has a budding seafood culture that is ripe for disruption. Enter: Wild Alaska Pollock.

The feedback from the chefs has been strong and the dishes are selling well. From warm, comforting Choppinos to help ward off the fall wind to some spicy fish tacos at hip and trendy after-work bars deep in the heart of the city, diners are learning about this fish and its attributes. And, according to our research, if we want to keep bringing new consumers to our category, it helps for them to see the fish—by name—on the menus of their favorite local eateries. That helps drive awareness and ultimately demand.

But perhaps the best news of all coming out of Chicago is that at least four of the restaurants have indicated their intent to keep plating Wild Alaska Pollock—even after the promotion wraps this week. And because of the relationships that were painstakingly built, they can order their desired products directly through their normal seafood distributor instead of calling us for another box. Which is a win, win, win.

So, if you’re Chicago-local, head out to visit one of the restaurants and try some delicious, nutritious, and sustainable Wild Alaska Pollock. And if you’re not local—fear not. We’ve likely got some Wild Alaska Pollock coming to a foodie scene in your ‘hood soon.

 

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