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NFI Forum: NFI takes new strategy to reach seafood consumers

John Connelly
John Connelly
January 01, 2005

Last summer, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “One of the biggest political battlegrounds in America these days isn’t Bush and Kerry — it’s fish and dairy. Gourmet edibles are coming under a new barrage of legal and activist attacks.”

Many National Fisheries Institute members report an increasing number of customers asking questions about the state of the world’s oceans or the safety of their seafood. To get ahead of these trends, NFI went to the families who buy seafood. We worked with consumer-product companies and professional opinion-tracking firms to determine what messages consumers are hearing, what groups they find believable and how the messages are impacting consumption.

Quantitative research included surveying more than 1,000 consumers about their buying patterns and how various messages influence their seafood purchases. Qualitative research included six focus groups that probed seafood purchasers about what messages they listen to when determining what meals to consider.

Our research indicates that Ameri­cans are solidly aware of the benefits of seafood consumption. Consumers understand the importance of omega-3’s to their heart health, appreciate that aquaculture can help relieve pressure on wild capture fisheries and realize that imports are an important part of the seafood supply chain.

The industry has a great opportunity to continue to drive this message home and begin to take more “share of stomach” from other proteins.

At the same time, environmental activists are spending up to $67 million per year to alter Americans’ perception of the seafood industry. The attacks are found in charges of overfishing and in groups preparing for the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act. They seek to shape a debate that claims the nation’s fisheries are in dire straits, and a radical overhaul of the Magnuson Stevens Act is needed. They also attack imported seafood by questioning the safety of foreign products. And some groups continue to portray aquaculture as environmentally destructive, ignoring the enormous strides the seafood community has made in implementing sustainable fish-farming practices. With a well-resourced program run by professionals, the activist community expects results — results that will mean less seafood sold.

In November, NFI’s board adopted a communications program to enable the group to more aggressively defend its members and promote the benefits of seafood. NFI will continue to develop a strategy that delivers accurate and credible information that increases awareness of many of the positive seafood messages. As importantly, NFI will balance negative seafood messages. NFI will develop new tools to deliver messages about seafood, including new and innovative ways to reach the consumer, more aggressive representation on Capitol Hill and in regulatory agencies and an upgraded media communications effort.

The seafood community must continue to do the right things — ensure the sustainability of our nation’s oceans, farm fish in an environmentally friendly manner and import seafood that is free of any unauthorized antibiotics. But beyond doing the right thing, we must tell people what we are doing. NFI’s new communications strategy helps our industry defend itself more forcefully and reminds the American public of the benefits of our product. We hope to create an environment where the seafood industry can sell even more seafood.

January 2005 - SeaFood Business


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