Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Quality Drives Retail Sales Success
BRISTOL BAY—Sockeye salmon from Alaska’s Bristol Bay continues to show gains in overall quality, aiding in retail sales success across the US. Dramatic increases in post-harvest chilling practices, coupled with new marketing tactics led by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) are proving successful for both the fishing fleet in Bristol Bay, and grocery retailers across the United States.
Chilling has been an area of focus in recent years for the Bristol Bay fleet, and the 2018 commercial sockeye salmon harvest produced a record volume of chilled salmon. According to a post-season survey, processors in the Bristol Bay region reported chilled deliveries totaling 151.6 million pounds, which represents 86 percent of sockeye salmon delivered by drift fishermen. This highlights a dramatic increase in recent years, up from 76 percent in 2017, and just 16 percent in 2008.
“The Bristol Bay fleet’s continued effort to educate and incentivize best-practices in post-harvest handling has seen a significant increase in overall quality in recent years,” said BBRSDA president Andy Wink. “Properly chilled fish bring a higher price to the fishermen and at the seafood counter, and processors have established an expectation of quality and a reputation for delivering premium salmon to their retail partners nationwide.”
While quality standards continue to rise, the Bristol Bay fleet’s self-funded marketing arm, the BBRSDA, has developed a nationwide marketing effort that includes partnerships with retail chains to increase sales of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. Rouses, a 62-store grocery chain in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, saw a 340 percent increase in year-over-year sales of Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon in 2018 while running summertime seasonal promotions.
“We’re making it easier and more affordable for customers to choose wild and sustainable seafood, like Bristol Bay sockeye salmon, which in my experience, is one of the best fisheries out there,” said Denise Englade, Rouses Seafood Director. “This promotion was a huge success at our seafood counters. Our stores saw a 240 percent increase in sales volume, and a 340 percent revenue increase over the previous season’s sales. We look forward to doing another Bristol Bay Sockeye promotion in the future.”
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Spreading the Word
When Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) first aired TV commercials featuring the tagline, “A Place That’s Always Been,” the reaction was surprising. Not only because they received numerous accolades and marketing awards for the campaign but because, at the time, it was rare for Alaska Native corporations to market themselves through the media.