Alaska looks to Ireland's fish marketing strategies

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The executive director of the World Trade Center Alaska says a marketing program designed to promote Irish-hatched and raised salmon might be an effective tool to sell Alaska fish.

Greg Wolf, the executive director of the World Trade Center Alaska, said Alaska and Ireland are faced with similar situations.

''Ireland and Alaska share a lot of traits and many of their marketing strategies are similar to ours,'' he said.

Wolf spoke in response to a speech from Richard Donnelly, a market research and intelligence executive for Irish Sea Fisheries Board. He was in Anchorage March 5 as part of the World Trade Center Alaska's Business of Seafood forum.

The Irish fisheries board, which is funded 50 percent by the state and 50 percent by the fishing industry, was established in 2000 and charged with developing and expanding the Irish fishing and aquaculture industries.

Donnelly said the campaign arose out of necessity.

Ireland produced 229 million pounds of seafood in 2001; and more than 90 percent of its salmon was farmed, Donnelly said.

But the Irish salmon farms were competing against giant farms throughout the world.

''We had to try to differentiate our farmed salmon from other farmed salmon in the world,'' he said.

That meant turning to domestic markets for the fish. Almost all of the salmon consumed in the country is farm bred and raised, Donnelly said. But Ireland's consumers didn't seem interested in the product.

The fisheries board launched an intensive advertising campaign in November 2000 to spread the message that fish is easy and convenient.

A central part of the message involved developing and distributing new recipe ideas for Irish-raised salmon. It also involved in-store demonstrations.

Donnelly said such a promotional effort is a highly effective way to raise awareness. While there is currently no established relationship between the United States and Ireland when it comes to promoting fish, Donnelly said the opportunity exists to establish those ties.

''All of our trends, between the U.S., United Kingdom, and Ireland are very similar,'' he said. ''We all have a passion for fishing -- we like to be out there on the open water and dealing directly with the fish -- but a lot of us are lacking the marketing expertise we need to promote our fish.''

During the first 12 months of the campaign, the overall sale of Irish salmon rose 39 percent over the previous year. In-store sales rose about 45 percent and some 55 percent of consumers surveyed said that fish was ''quick and easy'' after the campaign came to a close.

For the last 18 months, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has conducted a similar campaign with parallel results, according to Larry Andrews, the retail marketing director for the institute. Both marketing groups have been successful with outreach, education and in-store demonstrations.

''We try to educate the consumer on a lot of various aspects of Alaska seafood,'' Andrews said. ''We try to tell the story of the fish and we try to tell the consumer how to use the product. And it's working very well.''

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