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Special Feature: Point-of-sale materials

Interactive approach helps bring seafood home to retail consumers

By Melissa Wood
September 01, 2012

When you need to get a message across, stories have awesome power. Chip Heath, co-author of the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Succeed and Others Die,” asked students in a class he taught at Stanford University to give one-minute speeches using different sets of statistics about crime patterns. Afterward, when he asked students to recall their classmates’ speeches, they had forgotten almost everything they heard. 

But they remembered the stories. While only 5 percent of students remembered any individual statistic, 63 percent were able to retell stories they heard during presentations.  

The sticking power of stories is good news for the seafood department, because it contains more stories than anyplace else in the grocery store. Sophisticated and interactive point-of-sale (POS) materials are helping retailers share those stories to educate their customers about seafood. 

Copper River salmon is the big story at AJ’s Fine Foods, an upscale grocery chain of 13 stores in Arizona. As the May opener approaches, the excitement starts before the first fish is even out of the water. 

“We actually call it our countdown to Copper River salmon season, which in our opinion is the most famous king salmon season there is,” says Pat Lee, director of meat, seafood and sushi for AJ’s and other stores under the Bashas’ umbrella, including 53 Bashas’ and 50 Food City stores. “As it’s caught and flown in to Seattle we’ll send pictures of that and educational material to our members.”

Throughout the season, AJ’s customers receive updates in the store and online like daily weather reports from the six rivers that supply sockeye. They understand issues like escapement and know that a certain number of salmon need to return to their spawning grounds before non-subsistence fishermen are allowed to start catching them. 

“Our customers are a little bit different. They do care about quality and they like to be educated when it comes to [their seafood’s] origins,” says Lee. 

To do that Lee works with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), which offers an abundance of POS materials. At AJ’s, signage begins at the front of the store with window displays advertising the catch of the week. In the seafood department, Lee says they’ve had success using 2-by-3-foot stanchion signs to highlight four or five species at a time.

“It’s really important for me to talk about Alaska, and we’re constantly challenged to get that message out, but we’re doing a better job of it every year,” says Lee. 

Larry Andrews, retail marketing director for ASMI, has noticed retailers are setting up Alaska seafood sections within their display cases. ASMI provides case-divider signs that delineate these sections from seafood sourced elsewhere.  

Recipes and preparation tips — which Andrews says are also in demand — are reaching customers in a variety of low- and high-tech means. Customers can pick up recipe cards in stores or find them online. Or they can scan QR codes, located on packs, signs or static clings on freezer doors that take them directly to a video showing how to cook the product. A smartphone app for the organization’s Cook It Frozen program allows customers to look up recipes and videos and store them as favorites. 

It helps to get the message across that seafood doesn’t have to be a complicated dish to prepare. Mohammed Jeddy, seafood buyer for the 61-store Texas-based Fiesta Mart, says a few years ago Fiesta played a video in its stores from the Cook It Frozen program of a chef cooking salmon. 

It had a noticeable impact on sales. 

“Our salmon sales picked up a lot because the customers saw how easy it is to cook it frozen, and people saw the chef cooking it in 10 minutes and really jumped at it,” says Jeddy. 

The bottom line, points out Andrews, is to empower the customer. “If you can send the customer home with a product with a few simple tips and a few quick recipes that you know they’re going to be successful with that’s going to bring those people back again,” he says. 

One of the biggest — and most devastating — stories about seafood in the last couple years was the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Two years later, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board is telling a new story about the state’s seafood industry with a line of POS materials that include shelf dividers, informational brochures and brochure holders and clings. The materials were introduced at the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality Expo in mid August and are complemented by seafood counter training materials and a relaunch of the consumer-oriented website, www.louisianaseafood.com.    

Executive Director Ewell Smith says the materials don’t directly address that it’s safe, since that raises the question of whether it is unsafe.

“We say that it is probably one of the most tested food sources there is in the world right now, and the educational process comes from people seeing the chefs on TV using our products,” says Smith. “We can say it without saying it.”

The organization, which often highlights Louisiana chefs and fishermen in its advertising, has also developed a table tent for restaurateurs with QR codes that bring diners to websites featuring Louisiana fishermen. Smith says they are looking into expanding the concept to other materials as well.

“It’s about the people at the end of the day, especially in Louisiana,” says Smith. “Food is really what brings people and families together so we wanted to showcase the fishermen who bring it to the table. A lot of fishermen in our state, their families go back seven or eight generations. It’s important to keep that culture strong and to do that you want to recognize the people.

Email Assistant Editor Melissa Wood at mwood@divcom.com 

August 2012 - SeaFood Business 

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