« September 2007 Table of Contents
Lights, camera, seafood
TV brings fishermen, cooking ideas into homes,
generating excitement for the category
By Joanne Friedrick
September 01, 2007
Does watching a fishing boat tossing on the high seas make
TV viewers crave crab? Can a cooking show help drive shrimp
sales when chefs feature them in recipes? That's the hope of
many in the seafood industry who are counting on the popularity
of cable shows such as "Deadliest Catch" and offerings from the
Food Network to capture consumers' attention and make them
hungry for seafood.
Relationships that seafood marketers have with celebrity
chefs bear fruit for the brand or organization because of the
impact it has on the public perception of that product, says
Laura Fleming, communications director of the Alaska Seafood
"They [celebrity chefs] teach the public how to cook
seafood. And because of the [consumer] knowledge gap, there is
a fear about seafood. So having a chef whose opinion you
respect helps boost the profile of seafood items," says
ASMI is trying to expand demand for Alaska seafood through
"Ask for Alaskan" ads on the Food Network and HGTV using
comedian Ben Stein. At press time, ASMI was negotiating with
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and chef Alton Brown of the Food
Network's "Good Eats" and "Feasting on Asphalt" to take part in
marketing efforts in 2008, says Fleming.
Rich Products partnered with the Food Network during this
year's Lenten season for the SeaPak Ultimate Food Network
Getaway that gave the winner and a guest a trip to New York to
see a live Food Network show, a tour of the kitchens and a
dinner at a Food Network chef's restaurant. The company
received 170,000 entries and witnessed a dramatic increase in
its Web traffic as a result of that campaign, says Bryan
Jaynes, director of marketing
for Rich Products' Consumer
"When we set out three years ago to determine who we might
partner with for a multi-media campaign like this one, Food
Network was the obvious choice for us," says Jaynes. Research
has shown that viewers are highly likely to buy products
advertised on the Food Network because of the trust the channel
established with its customers, adds Jaynes.
"This loyalty is highly relevant to generating new interest
in meal preparation among the most coveted food-oriented
shoppers coming into the grocery store today," he says.
Rich's research also shows an untapped market for featuring
the frozen seafood category through a relationship such as this
one, "so it was exciting for SeaPak to lead the movement," adds
Non-cooking shows such as "Deadliest Catch" have given TV
viewers "a new appreciation for seafood," notes Fleming, while
increasing consumer awareness on what harvesting seafood
Now in its third season on the Discovery Channel, the
Emmy-nominated "Catch" chronicles the voyages of various
crab-fishing vessels on the Bering Sea. Rob George, who runs
The Crab Broker in Las Vegas, has sourced crab from Dutch
Harbor, Alaska, where the TV show is based, for 16 years.
George has developed relationships with current and former
captains of many of the crab vessels featured in the show and
now works with some of them to promote his products, which he
sells to upscale chefs and distributors nationwide.
George said while the majority of the crab catch is tied to
certain suppliers, "the fishermen wanted the most money for
their crab, so they've sold their B and C shares to us."
To help tell the story of its fresh product, The Crab Broker
invites restaurateurs, retailers and seafood buyers on annual
Crab Connoisseur Tours to Alaska, which include time spent
handling and processing the catch.
"Last year we had a tour and Phil (Harris) of the Cornelia
Marie (a boat featured on "Deadliest Catch") was in Dutch
Harbor, so I invited him to the function," said George.
He has also developed a relationship with one of the show's
original skippers, Larry Hendricks, who sold the Sea Star and
now works as a consultant for "Deadliest Catch," along with
Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand from the Time Bandit and Keith
Colburn, captain of The Wizard.
By aligning The Crab Broker with stars from the show, George
is getting more exposure for
"I'm finding new customers and building better credibility,"
In August, George conducted events at Dover Downs in
Delaware, Bob Chinn's Crabhouse in Wheeling, Ill., and Barnacle
Bills in Sarasota, Fla., each featuring several crewmembers
from "Deadliest Catch." His plan for "The Bad Boys of the
Bering Sea" (it's not a Discovery Channel-sanctioned event so
the show name cannot be used) is to develop merchandise that
consumers can purchase as well as promotional materials for
stores and restaurants such as banners, table tents and other
"By taking five or six [crab captains] to a function, it's
like bringing in major league basketball or baseball players,"
explains George. The show has such a loyal following that
beyond the captains, viewers know the names and information on
all of the deckhands, says George.
"Where the future is with these guys looks bright," adds
George. "We're going to do a lot of co-marketing together."
One of the retailers invited to join George on his Alaska
tour in October has heard customers comment on "Deadliest
Catch" when they are shopping for crab.
"I'm a believer in seeing where the food is coming from,"
says Jack Gridley, meat and seafood director for Dorothy Lane
Market, with three upscale locations in the Dayton, Ohio, area.
"I think it all goes back to people like to know where the
product comes from."
Gridley likened the interest in knowing how seafood is
caught to organic food customers being interested in seeing a
photo of the farmer with his crop.
Putting a story behind the seafood, as "Deadliest Catch"
does, also helps customers with the price issue. "They say,
'Now I know why it costs so much,'" notes Gridley.
But Evie Hansen, founder of the National Seafood Educators,
says that while shows such as "Deadliest Catch" put potential
seafood shoppers on the radar screen, it's also just as
important to teach them how to cook seafood.
She concurs with Gridley that more people are becoming
focused on food origins.
During a recent cooking seminar at Schnuck's supermarket in
St. Louis, where both Hansen and The Wizard captain Colburn
appeared, people lined up to get Colburn's autograph. "It's
putting a face with our fish,"
The idea of captaining a seafood boat in Alaska appeals to
the "free-spirit wanderer" within, says Hansen. "Boats are one
of the few places left to do that," she adds.
Gridley sells fresh king crab because of the quality. If a
trip to Alaska or a visit by one of the captains to the store
helps get the message across, Gridley is all for it.
"I'm interested in the processing part of it," Gridley says
of his potential trip. "What's involved in getting the product
to the store? And we can get some advertising excitement just
from going there."
One problem with scheduling visits by the captains is that
the store wants them when the crab is available, which of
course coincides with their fishing expeditions, says
George is working around that issue by possibly scheduling
promotions after ships have caught their quota, but while the
season is still under way.
Crab isn't the only seafood item that is vying for airtime
these days. Wild American Shrimp has also found its way onto TV
through appearances on Emeril Lagasse's "Emeril Live" and via
live cooking demonstration feeds.
Eddie Gordon, executive director for Wild American Shrimp,
says in addition to doing some advertising on the Food Network,
the organization has worked with celebrity chefs, such as
Lagasse, to educate consumers about the texture, flavor and
nature of Wild American Shrimp®. Emeril did a show in March
using Wild American Shrimp as the featured product in a series
of recipes, including Emerilized Barbecued Shrimp and Asian
Shrimp Bisque with Shrimp Toast.
"Emeril being in New Orleans and having his restaurant down
there, he really took to it," says Gordon. "[Emeril's
producers] came to us about the show. We sent in talking
points, but he's so natural about it. There's something in
their DNA - they are a chef and a teacher as well."
National Seafood Educators' Hansen agrees Lagasse "is a
pretty credible guy and people relate to him."
WASI also promotes its products via satellite tours with
chefs, such as cookbook author Nathalie Dupree, who allows
local TV stations to pick up a cooking demonstration and
recipes. And the organization works with restaurateurs such as
Dean Max of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Kevin
owner of Rathbun's in Atlanta, to bring Wild American
Shrimp into the spotlight.
Aligning seafood with the Food Network is a way to take
advantage of the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity
"I think right now, the cook-offs and the chefs doing them
are all household names. People are tuned in to it. It's the
trend right now," says Gordon.
The Food Network producers he has met are "culinary
professionals. We've never had a problem with them getting
WASI works with the print media as well, Gordon notes,
placing ads or getting stories in food publications such as
Gourmet , Southern Living and Coastal Living . "Written seems
to last, but the impact of TV seems to be the way of the
future," he says.
Currently WASI doesn't have numbers to show how a TV show
appearance impacts the shrimp business, but that is
"We're setting up a new computer system and Web site to try
to track the impact of those impressions," explains Gordon.
Even without a tracking system, "cooking shows and fishing
shows are playing big on their [netwo r ks'] bottom lines,"
As more food hobbyists turn to TV shows and chefs for
information, it makes sense that the seafood industry would
view this increasingly popular marketing tool as an opportunity
to showcase its products and how they are sourced and
Joanne Friedrick is a freelance writer and editor in South