« July 2007 Table of Contents
Point of View: Cooking message needs to return
By Evie Hansen
July 01, 2007
The seafood industry has its message all bass-ackwards. With
all of the media attention on contaminants in seafood and
sustainability it seems that the industry focus lately has been
forced to diverge its message. Retailers are more worried about
where a fish is from and what could be in it, and less
concerned about telling the consumer how to cook fish and
shellfish to increase seafood sales.
There are many historical examples of recipes landing
seafood on the table. In the early days of surimi seafood, the
favorite recipe was crab salad, consisting of iceberg lettuce
and mayo. That evolved into today's delicious and varied deli
salads and dips. When orange roughy first arrived in the United
States in the early '80s, a major retailer shipped a box of
frozen fillets to all of its stores. Unfortunately, neither the
store employees nor consumers knew it was coming or what to do
with it. A desperate meat manager developed a brilliant recipe
using orange juice, ginger and soy sauce. His recipe, Á La
Orange Roughy, boosted sales and made him the company hero.
More recently, the May issue of People had an interview with
"Deadliest Catch" brothers Sig and Edgar Hansen and nearly half
of the article was devoted to their favorite crab recipes.
Once customers are provided with a seafood recipe, it opens
up a whole new culinary world. They'll soon realize that
cooking chatter is everywhere, from the Food Network to
cookbooks to culinary blogs. Sometimes customers just need a
guiding hand to realize how much culinary information is
readily available to them. Today's consumer recipes have to be
healthful and quick, and fish and shellfish fulfill both of
To keep customer service at a premium level, teach sales
associates cooking techniques along with the omega-3 message.
Schnucks Markets in St. Louis held a hands-on seafood cooking
seminar for customers for the first time this May.
During the seminar, two underutilized cooking styles were
taught: poaching and steaming. An informal survey showed that
95 percent of the participants were unfamiliar with poaching
(simmering in seasoned liquid). Both techniques offer colorful
one-pot meals as well as quick and healthful choices,
especially for the one-fourth of all Americans who cook for one
person. Pam Malone, seafood category manager, was so pleased
with the enthusiastic feedback that she is eagerly scheduling
it again in 2008.
Recipe testimonials can inspire consumer experimentation and
confidence. Publish your customers' and associates' favorite
recipes in point-of-sale materials with the author's name,
picture, personal tips and hints and recipes. This is an easy
marketing strategy that can be put anywhere: recipe cards,
chalkboards, Web sites, brochures, e-mails and menus.
Don't forget, even though production method, source, and
sustainability are important, if the consumer doesn't know how
to cook seafood, it won't budge from the seafood case.
Evie Hansen, founder of National Seafood Educators, is
author of "Seafood: Omega-3's for Healthy Living" and conducts
seafood training seminars nationwide