Craig Morris , February 28, 2020

We’re Proud of Wild Alaska Pollock and Not Apologizing for Anything

Photo Credit: Orfeo

 

Today marks a historic day for Wild Alaska Pollock: the start of the first-ever Seattle Wild Alaska Pollock Restaurant Week dedicated entirely to our delectable fish. A joint effort between the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, more than forty (yes, you read that right, 4-0) restaurants will be featuring Wild Alaska Pollock in all forms including many unusual items being served in Seattle, like whole Wild Alaska Pollock, skin on fillets, Tarako and Mentaiko (my favorite form of Wild Alaska Pollock roe)!

Just a week ago, I listened to a podcast by IntraFish reporters talking about the latest NOAA report about domestic seafood consumption. The title of the podcast is indicative of their take on things: “Does America Suck at Seafood.” To that, on the eve of a record-breaking restaurant week: I definitively say we do not.

The reporters mused that seafood consumption here in the U.S. rose a nominal amount from 16 to 16.1 pounds and that this indicates that we have no chance of ever getting to 17 much less an industry goal of 20 pounds per person. Call me an optimist, but I think just the opposite is true. I think that this increase is the drip, drip, drip right before the dam breaks loose. I think Americans are looking for sustainable healthy proteins and that seafood—and Wild Alaska Pollock in particular—ticks all the boxes.

One comment that struck me particularly off was around how seafood “seems to apologize” for people having to eat it because it’s healthy. Well, that is a fact but one we’re proud of and certainly not ashamed of. The implication there is misguided—that the only reason people would want to eat seafood is because it’s healthy. It’s also not based in sound data: consumers, especially here in the U.S. are more and more seeking out proteins that are heart-healthy, lean and good for them. If you look at other commodities marketing their proteins, you’ll see the defensive messaging they use to claim theirs are good for you despite all the evidence otherwise.

Well, we know the resource we’ve got in our perfect protein, Wild Alaska Pollock, and we’re going to shout it from the rooftops. Not all proteins are created equal and Wild Alaska Pollock is starting to have some data in its pocket to demonstrate that our net protein utilization (the way your body absorbs and uses protein) is better than any other functional protein option…even potentially eggs! Talk about something to market on, proudly!

And speaking of marketing, the argument was further that seafood lacks in creativity, industry foresight, and financial investment to come together and actually market seafood. Huh. Well, I’m stumped…because I’m pretty sure that is just what the Wild Alaska Pollock industry did: come together, increase its investment in marketing and work to get creative.

Two weeks ago, GAPP launched its toolkits which are the result of industry investment in research to find out just what attributes (of the many) for Wild Alaska Pollock are most motivating to consumers (spoiler alert: one of them is nutrition) and how to position those attributes by channel and audience to best motivate purchasing. Now we’re working to train our members on the toolkits so that we can all be saying the same thing about our fish, consistently.

This week, for example, as more than forty chefs highlight the versatility (another attribute of Wild Alaska Pollock that is tried and tested as motivating) the waitstaff at those restaurants will be using talking points to sell the dishes with our fish to consumers that are derived from our toolkits. Wrap-around messaging that is specifically designed to make a consumer order Wild Alaska Pollock. And, we’re confident once they order it, they’ll love it and keep seeking it out.

And how could they not? We’ve got chefs that are preparing it every which way, like: “pan roasted Pollock, stinging nettle gnocchi, king oyster mushroom, mushroom and spruce broth with Pollock roe garnish.” Now if that doesn’t sound yummy, I don’t know what does!

Yes, I may sound just a wee bit defensive. And I’m clearly biased. But I don’t think that America sucks at seafood and I certainly don’t think that our marketing strategy is go to consumers hat in hand and beg for them to eat us. At least that’s not GAPP’s strategy.

Yes, American’s have historically under-indexed when it comes to seafood and that’s for a variety of reasons. There are areas that are land-locked and just weren’t exposed to it until modern freezing and transportation made that possible. There are people who still don’t know how to cook it at home. There are people that had a bad experience eating it out before chefs and others really knew how to properly prepare fish dishes. But we’re not alone in some of those struggles. Take pork for example—they did a whole campaign several years ago re-educating people on the proper cooking temperature (145 degrees, please!) because so many people overcook their pork and it tastes dry and awful.

I think that what seafood has perhaps lacked in creativity in the past, they are making up in spades now—especially in our industry. The momentum is building and unmistakable: you see Wild Alaska Pollock everywhere (and not just on Seattle menus this week!) and there’s the data to back that up.

I don’t expect to always get kudos from the trade media. In fact, I like the challenge.

And I don’t intend to apologize when I show you just how wrong you were. Stay tuned. Wink.

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