Atlantic-Fisherman-Newspaper

Whoever designed the new Nova Scotia premium international seafood brand logo did a fine job in my estimation. Tastefully understated, the new logo was domestically unveiled on March 2 with a media event at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, having been launched in the global marketplace at Shenzhen, China, last September.

The logo is a simple square box with a slash separating the province’s geographic coordinates in a sans-serif typeface alongside the legend: Nova Scotia Seafood, followed by the words ‘Pure Canada’ with a small red maple leaf between, conveying its message to the world in elegantly professional style.

Actually, the Nova Scotia branding involves more than just the new logo. It also includes images, signs, videos and a website intended to raise awareness of, and help highlight the quality and value of, Nova Scotia seafood in international markets.

The airport was thus an appropriate venue for the official unveiling in recognition of the sizeable volume of Nova Scotia seafood exports that now depart through its cargo facilities each year, bound for markets abroad. Direct lobster flights to China started in January.

The Department of Fisheries says establishing an effective seafood brand identity will help provide Nova Scotia with a competitive advantage in key global markets and highlight the key attributes of Nova Scotia seafood products: exceptional taste and top-tier quality.

“Nova Scotia seafood is a premium product and we want to share it with the world,” says Keith Colwell, N.S. Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister. “The international seafood brand we’ve developed will give the province and industry tools to deliver that message in key markets and help to continue increasing the value of our exports.”

Nova Scotia’s seafood branding project follows and compliments the pioneering example of the Lobster Council of Canada (LCC), which in 2014 commissioned development of a new Canadian lobster brand. The new brand articulates a set of core values, a vision, a mission and a brand promise designed to help Canada’s lobster industry disseminate its message in the global marketplace, along with a new logo to tie it all together.

Unfortunately, the industry has historically neglected the marketing side. A focus on marketing can add value without doing anything to a basic product such as lobster. As Jeff Malloy, president of the Lobster Council of Canada and CEO of P.E.I.’s Acadian Fishermen’s Co-operative, noted in a press release, “Canada is the world leader in lobster harvesting, live shipping and processing, but due to our size and fragmented structure we have not told a consistent story to the world.”

The respective LCC and Nova Scotia branding initiatives are designed to address that issue by raising the value and awareness of Atlantic Canadian lobster and Nova Scotia seafood in general through retail, food service and online promotions; marketing collateral; in-bound missions for members of the overseas trade and press; trade shows; out-bound trade missions and advertising.

Extensive research with international customers and the internal industry helped the Lobster Council identify 12 core values and strengths Canadian lobster represent. These range from Canada’s rigorous food safety guidelines, to our cold, largely wild and pristine North Atlantic natural environment, which helps produce a premium hard-shell lobster.

They also highlight the fact it’s harvested using traditional methods by a fishing community with genuine pride and passion in the product. The lobster industry generates more than $1.7 billion annually and employs approximately 15,000 people in mostly coastal Atlantic communities.

Last year marked Nova Scotia’s second in a row as Canada’s leading seafood exporter. A total of $1.8 billion worth of product was sold to international markets, putting the sector’s export total on track to meeting the goal set in Ivany’s One Nova Scotia report on the province’s economic future. That goal called for a doubling of seafood exports within 10 years.

The United States was once again Nova Scotia’s largest seafood export market in 2016 at $1 billion, China second at $255 million and the European Union third at $204 million.

“The impact of an investment in generic marketing is huge,” says LCC Executive Director Geoff Irvine. “As other food industries have shown, the return on investment from investment in generic marketing is dramatic. For example, the beef industry has shown that for every dollar invested in generic marketing the return on investment is nine-fold.”
Irvine says marketing lobster under the Canadian brand is important because sales of live and processed lobsters are growing dramatically in many export markets where the Canadian name and maple leaf are synonymous with high quality and seafood that’s caught in clean waters.

“Export data shows that sales to China have grown over 400 per cent in the past five years,” Irvine says. “Export markets value Canada’s rigorous food safety standards, our leading work on traceability and sustainability, and Canadian’s image as trustworthy people. The fact Canadian lobster is wild caught, healthy, versatile, delicious and associated with celebration is additional equity for the Canada brand.”

Malloy agrees. “Both the Maritime Lobster Panel and Independent Review of the P.E.I. lobster fishery stressed the importance of generic marketing to help stabilize prices within the industry and to grow demand for lobster. While the industry faces great challenges, this is also a time of exciting opportunity that will shape the sector for generations to come.”

However, there’s another aspect of seafood labeling at which Canada is not doing so well.

On March 16, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups spearheaded by the SeaChoice group, a program operated by the David Suzuki Foundation, along with the Living Oceans Society and Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, drew attention to what they contend are Canada’s inadequate nutrition and food safety labelling requirements for seafoods. These concerns are in a report that says our seafood labelling standards lag behind those of our trading partners, namely the U.S. and the European Union. Canada was given an “F” for its lax regulations.

The SeaChoice group advocates requiring the product species’ scientific name, the production method (farmed or wild), gear type or farming method, geographic origin and traceability systems to ensure accuracy of label claims. The report contends our current labeling gets in the way of important economic opportunities for the fishing industry, which would derive from aligning our labelling with that of our major trading partners, thereby facilitating smoother sale and trade operations for Canadian export businesses.

Apparently stung by the F-grade rebuke, Canadian Food Inspection Agency notes it currently has a public consultation on proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), which will introduce modern food safety requirements for businesses that import food or prepare food to be exported or sold across provinces. The CFIA is soliciting comments from all Canadians on the proposed regulations. Documents can be submitted at http://bit.ly/2neXKbE until April 21, 2017.

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Charles W. Moore
Nova Scotia based freelance journalist and commentator Charles Moore has been an Atlantic Fisherman contributor since 1986.