The Lobster Council of Canada (LCC) has developed a three-pronged, three-year lobster marketing strategy it hopes is going to be a fit for the funding criteria of the Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities Fund (CFSOF).
“The market for premium protein is complicated and intense around the world,” said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the LCC.
“Canada has a strong brand position and we must take advantage of this to expand and diversify our market to ensure we return the maximum value to Canadian industry participants… the plan is to be nimble and able to respond to an opportunity in a country, region or market segment.”
The Long-Term Value Strategy for Canadian Lobster has “three key parts, all focused on the processed and live lobster market and is designed to build value for all lobster sector stakeholders,” said Irvine.
“The first is focused on marketing and promotion with the tactics based on the marketing strategy for Canadian lobster that was developed in collaboration with the LCC marketing committee and a marketing firm. The second focus is on market access which involves engaging a resource that will support day-to-day market access challenges that face the lobster sector including issues like the North Atlantic right whale, lobster care through the value chain and invasive species issues in Scandinavia. The final piece is engaging a resource that will provide timely market intelligence information to every part of the value chain from the harvesters to the exporters for processed and live lobster products.”
The three areas of focus have been work-shopped by the LCC in several board and full council meetings and have been endorsed by the membership, said Irvine.
The essential elements of the marketing strategy component of the long-term value strategy include implementation of a generic marketing and promotion strategy that will capitalize on positive trade agreements such as CETA and CPTPP in Europe and Asia, said Irvine.
“A key feature will be implementing tactics to develop new markets that will pay higher prices for our premium, high quality, sustainable Canadian lobster products. The plan includes a mix of consumer and trade marketing tactics that must be flexible to change as consumer demand changes.”
The strategy also calls for the development of market intelligence and research capability that will provide regular, transparent and official market information for all participants in the Canadian lobster value chain, said Irvine.
“This marketing information will include market prices and trends for key lobster products (whole cooked lobster, lobster meat, live lobster, lobster tails), seafood (crab, lobster and shrimp) and other competitive proteins (beef, pork), currency and exchange rates, landings and export volumes and value.”
The third component of the strategy is to engage a resource for proactive action on known market access issues such as the North Atlantic right whale, Seafood Import Monitoring Program, Marine Mammal Protection Act, invasive species in Sweden and European Union, lobster husbandry in the European Union and North America and a rapid reaction asset for unknown, upcoming issues.
“An example of the need for this type of resource was the circumstances around North Atlantic right whale deaths in 2017,” said Irvine.
“In response to nervous customers, the LCC engaged a communications firm to develop materials that outlines actions being taken by Canadian regulators and harvesters. We had to pass the hat to collect from our membership to pay for this work. The market access allocation in this strategy will allow us to react quickly in future to this type of issue. The resource will be a qualified communications firm with experience in managing these types of issues.”
Irvine said the CFSOF “is an excellent opportunity to leverage 10-cent industry dollars to receive 90 cents from this federal/provincial (70/30) program. The fragmented nature of the lobster sector in Canada means it has been very difficult to fund this strategy and would not likely be possible without the CFSOF.”
With a fall federal election looming, Irvine said the LCC expects an answer on the proposal sometime this summer.
The strategy has the support from the New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador provincial governments. The Nova Scotia government has chosen not to participate in the project, said Irvine and Quebec has its own program so will focus efforts on its domestic market.