Food retailers can capitalize on consumer interest in sustainable Alaska seafood by showcasing the variety of species available from the state and highlighting its flavor, quality and nutritional value.
Alaska's 34,000 miles of coastline offer access to several different types of free-swimming salmon, shellfish and whitefish, which provide customers with the ability to shop for a variety of wild-caught and sustainable seafood.
"There is a massive opportunity with consumers right now for grocery seafood departments in sustainability storytelling, nutritional education and recipe inspiration," said Monica George, head of Retail Marketing at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI). "Not only are consumers choosing seafood, but many also have a preference for seafood caught in the Americas."
According to ASMI research from Datassential, one in five consumers cite wild-caught seafood from Alaska as their specific preference. In addition, 19% of seafood consumers said they choose to shop at stores that offer sustainable seafood.
"Beyond sustainability, we believe this shift is taking place because consumers understand the extraordinary health benefits behind seafood and prefer the taste of it, as well," said George.
Merchandising Alaska Seafood at Retail
Displaying the Alaska Seafood logo allows retailers to capitalize on highly favorable consumer perceptions of seafood from Alaska.
"First and foremost, 82% of consumers believe stores that display the Alaska seafood logo sell high-quality seafood, and 77% are more likely to purchase Alaska seafood if they see the logo," said George. "So, simply using the Alaska seafood logo can help land sales, and mentioning Alaska seafood increases consumers' willingness to add seafood to their baskets because they believe it is safe, natural, and wild."
As a result of these perceptions, nearly three fourths of consumers (72%) said they were willing to pay more for seafood that bears the Alaska Seafood logo, including 15% who said they would pay significantly more. Offering sustainable seafood from Alaska also creates a "halo" effect that enhances the overall impression of the store in the minds of consumers.
"According to FMI's 2021 Power of Seafood Report, when seafood is in the basket, the average amount spent by a household is three times greater than the average grocery basket size, truly lifting all tides for other grocery categories," said George.
Retailers that partner with ASMI to promote Alaska seafood achieve double-digit sales lifts, she said.
Leveraging Recipes and Staff Expertise
With consumers cooking at home more than ever, recipes can play an important role in driving seafood sales.
"We know that store-provided recipe ideas are the No. 1 source for encouraging consumers to purchase seafood and try it at home," said George. "Tying in healthy, easy and family-friendly recipe ideas invites consumers to add seafood to the cart at the inspiration stage of the cooking journey. It provides more opportunities for seafood at the table for any meal."
Having knowledgeable, well-trained staff is also important to the success of the promotion of Alaska seafood. Sharing Alaska's fishing heritage story is an excellent way for retailers to connect with their shoppers in store or online.
"There's so much to the story of seafood from Alaska," said George. "Wild-caught by generations of dedicated families amid majestic snow-capped mountains, rugged coastal shores, and pristine icy waters."
Retailers can help drive sales of Alaska seafood by providing their seafood department staff with the tools to learn more about consumer seafood preferences and how to discuss the benefits of seafood from Alaska.
ASMI also offers a variety of educational materials, recipes, training tools, customizable visual assets and more to help retailers build successful seafood promotions for all Alaska seafood products. In-store point of sale materials provide opportunities for digital couponing, real-time product information, sampling, and information for onsite dietitians, and online assets include education materials, informative content that encourages purchases, and information about responsible shopping.
Certification also helps validate the sustainability of Alaska seafood. It indicates performance against a standard of best practices for how fisheries are sustainably managed, and provides assurance that seafood was harvested responsibly and legally, and is traceable back to its source.
Alaska seafood is certified by Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program, which is benchmarked by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) and aligns with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. It's one of the few certification programs that features origin on their eco-label and is free to use with Chain of Custody.
Retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize on consumers’ interests both in cooking seafood at home and in shopping sustainably by showcasing the incredible variety of Alaska seafood. Merchandising seafood from Alaska and combining it with recipes and insights that showcase the retailer’s expertise can create a destination that elevates the entire seafood department in the mind of the consumer, in turn driving bigger baskets and increased profitability.
Importance of Wild Alaska
Wild-caught is one of the primary attributes that drive seafood purchases at retail, according to research from Datassential and Alaska Seafood. More than four in five (82%) consumers said they choose seafood over other proteins because it is wild-caught.
Among the seafood attributes consumers consider most important for at-home preparation, being naturally caught or wild is No. 1 among affluent consumers. It is one of the top three attributes among all consumers, along with knowing the source or origin of the seafood and whether or not it is sustainable.
In addition, consumers prefer wild-caught seafood to farmed by a 5:1 ratio, the research found. Consumers prefer wild-caught for the taste and because they perceive it to be healthier and to have fewer harmful additives.
Consumers associate wild-caught with seafood from Alaska. Among affluent consumers, 68% agree that Alaska seafood is wild, while 64% of consumers overall agree. This is part of the reason why mentioning “Alaska seafood” increases consumers’ willingness to purchase.
Types of Alaska Seafood
Datassential research shows that consumers overwhelmingly prefer Alaska salmon, with 49% of general consumers citing it as their preference, compared with 28% who prefer Atlantic salmon. Wild-caught Alaska salmon, meanwhile, is preferred by 70% of consumers, compared with 30% who prefer wild-caught salmon in general.
Following are the varieties of Alaska salmon available:
- Sockeye Salmon
- Pink Salmon
- King Salmon
- Coho Salmon
- Keta Salmon
When it comes to shellfish, Alaska King crab is indeed king, with 72% of consumers citing a preference for Alaska King crab, vs. 28% who say they prefer king crab in general, according to Datassential.
Following are the varieties of Alaska shellfish available:
- Weathervane Scallop
- Snow Crab
- King Crab
- Dungeness Crab
Consumers also prefer several varieties of Alaska whitefish over others, including Alaska pollock, which is preferred by 73% of consumers over pollock in general. In addition, wild Alaska pollock is preferred by 69% of consumers over traditional Alaska pollock. Other Alaska whitefish favored by consumers include sablefish; and wild Alaska cod, preferred by 67% of consumers over Pacific Cod. More than half of affluent consumers (58%) prefer Alaska sole or flounder over other types of sole or flounder, and 55% of consumers prefer Alaska halibut over fresh halibut.
Following are the varieties of Alaska Whitefish available:
- Alaska Pollock
- Surimi Seafood
- Atka Mackerel