17 February 2017
Aquaculture America 2017 Presenter: Nancy Peterson
How and where did you first start working in seafood industries?
After completing my MBA I networked with a fellow Babson graduate who had taken a position the previous year at Gorton’s in Gloucester MA. He said great things about the company and it seemed a great place to start my marketing career. Honestly my focus was not so much on seafood back then, but that quickly changed!
Having worked in seafood consumer marketing, with Gorton’s for many years and more recently at National Fish & Seafood, from your perspective, why are gatherings such as Aquaculture America 2017 so important for the industry?
In my 20+ years at Gorton’s I was very successful at helping grow their business with new product lines I launched, new channels that I opened, and turning around the Canadian market. At National Fish & Seafood I repositioned an outdated brand and supported it with consumer marketing tactics. I attribute much of my success to always being up to date in my industry through networking and attending industry events, like Aquaculture America. So that’s why it’s so important for industry professionals to meet together on a regular basis. And that’s particularly true for an industry as fragmented as seafood is.
As a Consumer Marketing Strategy Manager, what ways do you feel Aquaculturists can better communicate their stories with consumers?
In today’s world it’s really important to get your message out through earned vs. paid media. And that’s not that paid media can’t be effective, it’s just today’s consumers (as in Millennial’s particularly) rely on influencers (such as chefs) and social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram) to get their news and information. With an effective PR campaign, targeted at influencers, the farm raised seafood industry can be very effective at telling its story. But it has to be ongoing – not just a one time campaign.
You understand the value of and for aquaculture and sustainability programs. Why do you feel it is vital here in the US and around the world?
There is no question that seafood, (and particularly sustainably farm raised seafood) is essential to world health and prosperity. That’s why the UN’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is so focused on helping it develop and thrive. It provides not only food but also jobs and drives economic growth. Here in the US the government, in its latest dietary guidelines, explicitly promotes more seafood consumption because of its clear health benefits. Americans are getting the message that they need to eat more seafood and less red meat and at the same time they care more and more about the sustainability of what they eat. So it’s just completely natural to promote sustainable farm raised seafood.
You will be a presenter at Aquaculture America 2017 in San Antonio, Texas this February, what will be the subject and your area of focus?
As part of the session on Promoting Seafood Consumption I will be presenting about Shaping Consumer Perceptions of Farm Raised Seafood. Ever since I launched the campaign to grow industry awareness and respect for National Fish & Seafood’s aquaculture/sustainability programs I have become increasingly aware of the huge disparity that exists between the industry’s self-perception of the value of aquaculture and consumer perceptions. The industry has simply not been able to come together to effective the industry’s issues in any effective way. As a consumer marketer with about 30 years experience in the Seafood industry I find this to be very frustrating. To me the solution is fairly obvious. We need to band together as an industry, invest in research to truly understand what today’s consumers are thinking of and how they perceive farm raised seafood, and then mount an ongoing consistent marketing campaign to address the problems. I truly believe it will not be hard to do this. The hard part is pulling together industry leaders to support and fund it. Unfortunately past attempts in the seafood industry to market itself and to establish a check off style campaign for this purpose, have failed miserably. And why is that? Because it was attempted through the NFI which is an industry membership organization. Since the industry is so fragmented these style campaigns are doomed to fail. Instead we need a Coalition of industry leaders to get behind this. I call it the coalition of the willing. Initially it has to be the top leadership of the major players in the industry who willingly lend their support and assets to the cause. And then it is very important to involve all entities that have an interest, large and small, even if they are opponents of aquaculture. How do I know this? Because I have spoken with leaders in other industries who have been very effective at doing this and they’ve shared with me the key factors to their success.
As a community, Aquaculturists are working together to increase public knowledge about farm-raised seafood. What are some of the best ways for us to achieve these goals in your professional opinion?
Well as I mentioned when we talked about how aquaculturalists can better communicate their stories, the key is to reach influencers through earned media. Using public relations tactics, social media vehicles like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, a great web site – these are the best ways to reach today’s consumers. But as I mentioned earlier it is critical to initially conduct deep consumer research to get what I call the “North Star” understanding of what consumers currently perceive about farm raised seafood.
What does the problem of plastics in the oceans mean to you, personally?
To me it’s a health issue. Chemicals from the plastics are released into the water and the atmosphere, which contaminates fish and other wildlife. And as a seafood industry professional I hate the idea that giant collections of plastic are conglomerating where ocean currents come together. This is terrible news for an industry looking to promote more seafood consumption.
From your perspective, where are the critical points for Aquaculturists to look to reduce, recycle and reuse plastics?
To be honest this is not a subject I knew much about until I did a little research. I read an article claiming that plastic gear from aquaculture including polystyrene materials used in mussel and oyster-growing structures is showing up in ocean debris, on shorelines etc. If this is in fact the case then the aquaculture industry must address the issue. Practices would need to be introduced to prevent gear from being lost and only materials that are safe for people and the environment should be used.