Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative

The goal of the Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative (MSMI) is to help Maine’s seafood industry to be better positioned to deal with future regulatory and environmental changes, identify markets for seafood products to alleviate inventory challenges and retain higher wholesale/retail product value in crowded markets, be competitive and more attractive than low-cost imports, and create sustainable markets for our Maine products throughout the US.

Why the MSMI?

In a September 2018 unpublished report conducted by Janine Bisaillon-Cary of the Montserrat Group (under contract to FocusMaine) a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) Analysis was conducted to assess attracting new aquaculture businesses to Maine. Nearly all stakeholders interviewed indicated that the lack of a seafood marketing group that promoted all Maine products was a “weakness” to development and growth. While such an entity exists supporting the marketing of “Maine lobster” and many of our seafood-producing neighbors have state-funded seafood marketing programs, Maine has no such marketing entity to help expand markets beyond this region and promote all of our seafood species and products domestically.

Recognizing this gap, Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative aims to stimulate market development by creating an organizational identity which utilizes experts to explore target markets and represent industry with the intent of introducing buyers to products while expanding awareness within unexplored markets for wild and farmed Maine seafood.  Supporting existing fisheries will help maintain our shrinking working waterfronts, stimulate fisheries diversity from a reliance on a single species for economic opportunity (namely lobster), and help leverage and expand our growing aquaculture industry.

Maine has a long and proud tradition of commercial fishing, ranking 3rd in the nation in commercial value (behind Alaska and Massachusetts, 2017) with over $512 million in wild–capture product landings.  Among marine aquaculture-producing states, Maine ranks first or second nationally, depending upon the available data, and has recently taken a leadership position in attracting several new Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) land-based finfish farms with over $500 million in investments projected in the next two years. Given that approximately 90% of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, we believe that sustainable, premium seafood from Maine remains an undervalued and undermarketed commodity nationwide among consumers and buyers looking for traceable and sustainable seafood.

The MSMI Pilot Program

With additional funding provided by the Maine Technology Institute, CEI is undertaking a Pilot Program to run for the first six months of 2020. The Pilot Project is the first step to establish a prototype “Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative” which will forge institutional partnerships and focus the many economic and training resources in our state to help members access underutilized domestic target markets outside of our immediate New England region – while promoting Maine’s entire seafood-producing industry with the intent of:

  • Introducing new buyers to Maine’s seafood products,
  • Expanding awareness within unexplored domestic markets for wild and farmed seafood,
  • Maintain the vibrancy and functionality of our shrinking working waterfronts,
  • Support fisheries diversity away from a reliance on any one single species, and
  • Reinvigorate interest in promotions for “seafood from Maine.”

During this six-month “Pilot” phase, our team will:

Execute Market Survey

Research Maine’s seafood assets and classify those companies with products that are sustainable and have opportunity to grow nationally. Conduct a survey of Maine’s seafood/aquaculture companies to gauge interest in regional/national market development activities and identify their market interests and gaps.

Create a Market Development Plan

Review best practices of like Seafood/Food Trade Associations in other states.   Develop a Prototype Market Development Plan for the Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative leveraging survey results and best market prospects.

Build a Best Market Prospects Overview

Research market trends and data relevant to North Atlantic seafood industry sector. Validate which markets and related activities have best prospects for Maine products. Reach out to strategic partners to leverage their market information and discuss potential for coordinated activities. Participate in the National Fisheries Institute’s Global Seafood Market Conference to collect relevant market data.

Develop a Business Model for Early Stage Execution

Create a business model incorporating Market Development Plan, and review of costs and budgets from similar entities.  Identify interested sponsors and funding opportunities and private sector revenues. 

Impacts

We believe that by establishing the MSMI, the economic impact over time will benefit Maine’s coastal fishing communities and businesses. Success metrics are direct and measurable.  We believe the establishment of a sustainable, service-based Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative whose B2B focus will:

  • Measurably increase sale/revenue growth in the Maine seafood sector,
  • Create/Maintain seafood industry jobs in Maine as a result of market expansion/industry multipliers
  • Stimulate “outside” investment to bring more money/employment into Maine, and
  • Build National Recognition of the quality of Maine’s fresh, frozen and value-added seafood products such that they can command premium prices in regional markets.

Next Steps

CEI is continuing to seek funding to advance this project into a “Phase 1 & Phase 2” initiative that will build upon the Pilot Business Model and further mature the Initiative into a turn-key, functional entity.

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