Matching Alternative Marketing Opportunities with the N.H. Commercial Fishing Industry's Alternative Marketing Capacity

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Project Type: 
Research
Project Number: 
R/SSS-4
Inception Date: 
2012
Completion Date: 
2014

Participants:

Erik Chapman N.H. Sea Grant Collaborator
Gabriela Bradt N.H. Sea Grant Technician
Charles French UNH - Cooperative Extension Principal Investigator
Alberto Manalo UNH - Department of Natural Resources & the Environment Co-Principal Investigator
Kelly Giraud Cullen UNH - Department of Natural Resources & the Environment Co-Principal Investigator
Shane Bradt UNH - Cooperative Extension Collaborator
Joshua Wiersma Northeast Fishery Sector XI, XII Collaborator
Jay Driscoll Northeast Fishery Sector XI, XII Collaborator
Ken La Valley UNH - Cooperative Extension Collaborator

Students Involved:

Tyler MacInnis UNH - Carsey Institute
Eliot Jones University of New Hampshire
Abstract: 
During the last decade an influx of low-cost, imported seafood has displaced domestic seafood in many commercial markets. Recent federal regulations — specifically, the shift to sector management and quota allocations for groundfish — have contributed to a reduction in New Hampshire’s total catch and its fleet. This has led fishermen to explore alternatives to increase their profits by reducing the costs of handling, transportation, processing and distribution by out-of-state distribution agents. French and collaborating researchers will examine data from consumer surveys to characterize seafood preferences by potential consumers within a half-day-goods-distance of N.H. ports where fishermen unload their catch (approximately 150 miles). As with the consumer data, data on retailer preferences will be examined to determine what factors retailers, restaurants, fish mongers and other alternative venues consider when purchasing seafood. Researchers will geographically delineate the potential market for local, sustainably-caught seafood, characterize demand and preferences by existing market outlets, identify opportunities to develop new alternative markets, and assess the N.H. seafood industry’s capacity to capitalize on alternative markets. In addition, they will identify best practices for tapping into local/regional alternative markets, thereby helping the commercial fishing industry better position itself to deal with further regulatory changes and make it less susceptible to competition by low-cost imports.
Objectives: 

• Characterize seafood preferences by potential consumers within a half-day-goods-distance of
N.H. Seacoast ports where fishermen unload their catch (approx. 150 miles)

• Geographically delineate the potential market for local, sustainably-caught seafood

• Determine if the market is of sufficient size to merit the cultivation of alternative markets

• Assess the N.H. seafood industry’s capacity to capitalize on these alternative markets

• Identify best practices for tapping into local and regional alternative markets

Methodology: 
• Conduct secondary data analysis of consumer preferences/behaviors
 
• Conduct secondary data analysis of retailer preferences for seafood products
 
• Utilize proprietary geospatial market analysis software to characterize the market for local, sustainably-caught seafood
 
• Assess the seafood industry’s' value chain capacity
Rationale: 
The total economic activity generated from New Hampshire’s commercial fishing industry is estimated at $106 million and it supports 5,000 full- and part-time jobs (Magnusson, 2011). During the last ten years, however, an influx of lowcost, imported seafood has displaced domestic seafood in many commercial markets. As well, recent Federal regulations – namely the shift to sector management and quota allocations for groundfish – have contributed to a reduction in New Hampshire’s total catch and its fleet. This has led fishermen to explore value-added alternatives to increase their profits by reducing the costs of handling, transportation, processing, and distribution by out-of-state distribution agents.
Accomplishments: 

2014

N.H. Sea Grant bookmark highlights “underloved” seafood species of N.H.
As a result of NHSG-funded research on alternative marketing opportunities for the N.H. fishing industry, N.H. Sea Grant produced a bookmark in 2014 highlighting five "underloved" seafood species of N.H. — those species that are abundant but not well-known among consumers. The bookmark provides biological information about these species along with details about culinary preparation of each species and their uses in cuisine. The bookmark has been distributed at seafood tasting events, meetings and a sustainable seafood dinner at UNH’s Holloway Commons, providing a quick reference for consumers who want to familiarize themselves with local, sustainable seafood choices. It has also been shared on social media, with a potential Twitter reach of more than 14,000 followers based on numerous retweets.

Poster educates public about N.H. Sea Grant research and extension efforts to market local seafood
In 2014, N.H. Sea Grant designed a poster to educate the public about its research and extension efforts to market local seafood. Commercial fishermen are seeking ways to market local, "underloved" seafood species — those that are plentiful in New England waters but not well-known to the public. The poster first describes NHSG-funded research to determine consumer and restaurant preferences for these local species, then summarizes staff efforts to creatively market seafood based on the research findings. The poster was presented at Sea Grant Week in 2014 to help spread the word among professionals who may be interested in initiating similar efforts within their state.

N.H. Sea Grant researchers host alternative seafood marketing workshop for N.H. steelhead trout farmers
N.H. fishermen have been seeking new methods of selling their seafood locally to decrease transportation and handling costs and to tap into consumer interest in sustainably caught or raised seafood. NHSG-funded research has previously identified opportunities to develop new alternative seafood markets in the Seacoast region. In 2014, researchers presented the results of these studies to N.H. fishermen involved in steelhead trout aquaculture. The workshop offered research-based information to the fishermen about marketing their product locally and the challenges and opportunities involved in doing so. This event fostered an improved understanding of local seafood markets for fishermen to capitalize on additional revenue streams and to offer new choices to consumers hungry for local trout.

2013

N.H. restaurants serve dogfish and educate customers based on feedback from consumer preference surveys
RELEVANCE: Commercial fishermen and those associated with the seafood industry are seeking ways to identify and create niche markets for local seafood in N.H. to sustain the few remaining groundfishermen in the state.

RESPONSE: In 2013, N.H. Sea Grant-funded researchers conducted consumer preference surveys at seafood tastings and other events to help promote awareness of local seafood, including underutilized species, and highlight the connection to the N.H. commercial fishing industry.

RESULTS: Due to the attention drawn to underutilized seafood species — dogfish, in particular — three restaurants in Portsmouth, N.H. now serve dogfish to their customers. Researchers also helped prepare educational material for restaurant staff to explain to them the importance of eating locally landed and sustainably caught seafood species, allowing restaurant staff to educate their customers about local seafood and potentially increase demand for underutilized species.

RECAP: N.H. Sea Grant-funded research and associated educational events and materials have helped spread awareness about local seafood and created a small but important market in restaurants that now serve dogfish and help support N.H. groundfishermen.

Research builds awareness of local seafood, leads to more business for N.H. fishermen and a Community Supported Fishery
RELEVANCE: Due to changes in federal regulations and an influx of low-cost seafood imports, commercial fishermen are seeking ways to market their catch locally and obtain a stable price while decreasing the costs of business-related expenses such as transportation and distribution of seafood. However, some consumers have been wary of trying new seafood species, thus creating an obstacle for creating new markets for the product.

RESPONSE: With funding provided by NHSG, researchers conducted surveys to determine consumer preferences and organized tastings of underutilized species at three major events in 2013. These events helped to promote local seafood and consumer awareness of underutilized species — those species that are plentiful but relatively unknown to the public, such as softshell lobster, monkfish, dogfish, redfish and hake.

RESULTS: Based on the success of promotional events aimed at increasing the public’s awareness of local seafood, the new community supported fishery (CSF) business, N.H. Community Seafood, grew its membership, enabling several groundfishing boats to stay in business during a difficult economic and regulatory climate.

RECAP: N.H. Sea Grant-funded research helped build awareness of local seafood options, leading to increased business for a community supported fishery and N.H. fishermen.

Wholesaler incorporates N.H. Sea Grant research into business model for local seafood
RELEVANCE: N.H. Sea Grant-funded research indicates that consumers are interested in purchasing local seafood, as long as the product is fresh and is a familiar species. The researchers’ surveys also showed that consumers want to connect to the fishermen who catch their seafood and want to know the premium they pay for local products goes to support those fishermen.

RESPONSE: In 2013, Red’s Best Seafood, a seafood wholesale company in Boston, Massachusetts, incorporated these research findings into their business practices. They began placing additional emphasis on underutilized species and they have implemented a real-time source tracking that places a premium on responsibly caught fish.

RESULTS: By incorporating NHSG research results into their business model, seafood wholesalers are connecting to new higher-value marketing channels and providing a fair price to fishermen for their catch.

RECAP: Based on research funded by N.H. Sea Grant, a seafood wholesale company now places more emphasis on underutilized seafood species and tracks their product to place a premium on responsibly caught fish.

Consumer feedback leads to rebranding of lesser-known seafood species
Facing changing federal regulations and an influx of low-cost, imported seafood, commercial fishermen are seeking ways to market underutilized local seafood species—those that are plentiful but not well-known by the public. N.H. Sea Grant-funded researchers organized three underutilized seafood tasting events, including a commercial fishing season kickoff event and two special restaurant tastings. Blind taste tests were conducted at each venue to assess consumer receptiveness to various seafood products and species. Results indicated that consumers were hesitant to try certain species like dogfish and wolffish, in part due to their names or their unfamiliarity with the species. Based on feedback from these tastings, researchers collaborated with NHSG extension to rebrand underutilized seafood species as “underloved” species — a term that is easier to remember and encourages consumers to view species such as redfish, hake, softshell lobster, monkfish and dogfish in a more positive light. This rebranding effort will help consumers gain familiarity with local seafood options and potentially help create a market for underloved species to support N.H. commercial fishermen.

Survey indicates N.H. consumer interest in purchasing local seafood
Commercial fishermen are seeking ways to market their product locally to help increase their profits and reduce transportation and handling costs of the seafood, but little is known about consumer preferences for seafood in the N.H. Seacoast. With funding provided by N.H. Sea Grant, researchers conducted surveys to characterize seafood preferences by potential consumers within 150 miles of the N.H. Seacoast ports where fishermen unload their catch. In 2013, researchers completed their survey of 308 N.H. residents to gauge consumer preferences, demand and willingness to pay for local seafood. The results indicate that consumers are willing to pay a premium for local seafood and drive further to purchase the product if it is a species they are familiar with, if it is easy to cook at home or available at restaurants, and if the fishermen are receiving a fair price for the product. In addition, the survey also showed that consumers are most likely to purchase fresh fish fillets, followed by shellfish, seafood chowders and frozen fillets. These survey results will help fishermen and others who are marketing local seafood to better understand their target audience and to develop and improve markets for underutilized species.

Publication highlights results of alternative seafood marketing research
In the past few years, the N.H. commercial fishing industry has embarked on various ventures to capture new markets and add value to their products. Using Sea Grant funds, UNH researchers conducted studies to determine the current and potential future markets for seafood consumption near the N.H. Seacoast. NHSG produced a four-page publication in 2013, “Consumer and retailer demand for local seafood: Opportunities in the N.H. marketplace,” summarizing this research. The publication will be distributed to fishermen, chefs and seafood retailers to promote awareness of seafood marketing opportunities that balance healthy fish populations with economic benefits to struggling fishermen.

Survey indicates restaurant and seafood retailer interest in purchasing and selling local seafood
The influx of low-cost imported seafood coupled with changing federal regulations has led commercial fishermen to explore alternative methods of marketing their catch to remain profitable. In 2013, N.H. Sea Grant-funded researchers conducted surveys of seafood retailers and restaurant managers to determine their willingness to buy and sell local seafood — specifically, underutilized species that are plentiful but may be unknown to the public. The results indicate that if they were to buy and sell local seafood, it would need to arrive filleted and gutted, be a high-quality product that can be supplied consistently throughout the year, and should be a species that the consumer is familiar with or willing to try. Although retailers and restaurant managers are willing to pay a premium for local fish, there is a certain pricepoint they must meet in order to make a profit. These results improve the understanding of restaurant and retailer seafood preferences, providing valuable information to help develop and improve markets for underutilized seafood species.

N.H. oyster farmers participate in marketing workshops to discuss N.H. Sea Grant research results
There has been a recent uptick in the number of oyster farms starting up in N.H.’s Great Bay, but many of the farmers have no background knowledge on how to effectively market their product. NHSG-funded researchers conducted surveys to characterize local seafood— including shellfish such as oysters — preferences of potential consumers, retailers and restaurants. In 2013, these researchers were involved in two workshops for oyster farmers to help them focus on enhancing their marketing and collaboration efforts. Results from the research were presented to the farmers and a roundtable discussion took place, allowing the farmers to brainstorm ways to apply the survey results to their business models. Outreach efforts based on this research will enhance shellfish farmers’ understanding of potential markets and help them improve their efforts to engage with consumers interested in purchasing locally raised oysters. 

NHSeafood.com updates offer clear, concise information on where and when to purchase local seafood
Commercial fishermen are focusing some of their efforts on selling their catch locally to increase profits and decrease transportation and handling costs. N.H. Sea Grant research indicates that despite their interest in purchasing local seafood, many consumers do not know what their seafood options are throughout the year and do not know where to purchase the products. In 2013, researchers collaborated with NHSG extension staff to update the NHSeafood.com website to offer clear, concise information on where and when to purchase local seafood. Coupled with social media efforts, the website updates help to build awareness of local seafood species and connect consumers with purchasing options, thus removing an obstacle to cultivating a market for local seafood on the N.H. Seacoast. 

2012

Surveys Indicate Fish Retailers, Restaurants Willing to Sell Underutilized Seafood Species
In an effort to identify alternative marketing opportunities for seafood in New Hampshire, NHSG-funded researchers conducted surveys to determine what factors retailers, restaurants, fish mongers and other alternative venues consider when purchasing seafood. Based on interviews and a survey of around 90 restaurant and retail store managers in 2012, 40% said that local seafood is a more important factor than the price for their customers. Around 80% of business owners sell shellfish while 65% sell finfish, but most said they would purchase filleted fish if it were more readily available. Many business owners said they would be willing to purchase local underutilized seafood species including monkfish, redfish and dogfish to sell to customers if there was a demand for it, and if a filleted product was available. Their findings indicate there is an unmet demand for local fish, an interest in offering more of it and a need for a processor and delivery system in the state. These survey results will help identify best practices for tapping into local and regional alternative markets in an effort to keep the local fishing industry economically sustainable.

Researchers Test "Trace-and-Trust" Seafood Source Tracking System
Researchers are working with NHSG staffers to test a “trace-and-trust” seafood source tracking system to improve the real-time data collection on species caught as they come into port. This system will help the sector manager to better manage catches and will facilitate opportunities for alternative markets.

Surveys Characterize Consumer Seafood Preferences in Seacoast
Recent federal regulations have contributed to a reduction in N.H.’s total groundfish catch and its fishing fleet. Fishermen are seeking alternatives to increase their profits by reducing costs of handling, transportation, processing and distribution of fish by out-of-state distribution agents. NHSG-funded researchers examined data from consumer surveys to characterize seafood preferences by potential consumers within a half-day-goods-distance (150 miles) of N.H. ports where fishermen unload their catch. Based on their survey analyses in 2012, researchers determined that women of childbearing age who cook at home and have household incomes above $80,000 are the most likely consumers of seafood. These consumers tend to purchase wild fresh fish, they live close to the N.H. Seacoast and are willing to travel 10-20 miles to the point of sale. These data will help inform efforts to tap into local alternative markets, thereby helping the commercial fishing industry better position itself to deal with further regulatory changes and make it less susceptible to competition by low-cost imports.

Publications

Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant

Bookmark

  • The underloved seafood of New Hampshire

Brochure

  • New Hampshire seafood: do you know what you are eating? (2013)

Information Sheet

  • Consumer and retailer demand for local seafood: opportunities in the N.H. marketplace (2014). Charlie French, Kelly Cullen, Alberto Manalo and Eliot Jones.

Poster

  • Marketing locally caught seafood in New Hampshire (2014). Rebecca Zeiber.
Keywords: 
fisheries