GAPP Seeks to Position Pollock as ‘Perfect Protein’ at Inaugural Meeting
Sens. Murkowski, Stevens discuss importance of fishery; Ketchum’s Mary Elizabeth Germaine discusses winning WAP attributes
SEATTLE—The Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) kicked off its first-ever Annual Meeting with notable guest speakers including US Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska State Senator Gary Stevens, and Mary Elizabeth Germaine of Ketchum Public Relations Agency. Speakers actively discussed the importance of the fishery to Alaska and the US and the excitement around the fish.
“Wild Alaska pollock is just about as close to perfect as you can get,” said Senator Murkowski via video message to the standing-room only audience. “Among nutrition scientists, I’ve heard it called the food from the neck up. More than any other protein, seafood grows a healthy America.”
Murkowski helped open the meeting with GAPP Chair Mikel Durham and discussed her current priorities in DC to support Alaska seafood by pre-recorded video messages. Such priorities include working to allow for the labeling of wild Alaska pollock as organic by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ensuring that the FDA enforces its labeling standards around plant-based proteins, and protecting the free flow of seafood around the world.
“Genuine Alaska pollock products are sought after by consumers around the world and we need to ensure that no pollock products are affected by trade disruptions,” said Murkowski.
Alaska Senator Gary Stevens also offered opening remarks and discussed the importance of the wild Alaska pollock and Alaska seafood industries to the Alaska economy—supplying some 40 percent of jobs in Kodiak alone.
“It’s a pleasure to be here with you today and look around the room and see people I’ve known for the last forty years,” said Senator Stevens. “I’m so proud of what you have done—and what we have done—for the state of Alaska. Thank you for all you do for Alaska and for the US.”
Many of the morning’s speakers noted the fitting the theme for the first-ever Annual Meeting:
“Celebrating Our Perfect Protein: Wild Alaska Pollock,” and spoke passionately about how there has never been a better time for wild Alaska pollock.
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“We need to come out of the shadows and into the spotlight,” said Craig Morris, GAPP Chief Executive Officer while describing how seafood wasn’t even mentioned at a recent prestigious food forum. “We need to be engaged outside our traditional forums and get comfortable with being center stage. We’re headed into a global protein shortage and it’s high time that wild Alaska pollock take its rightful place as a protein leader.”
In order to take its place at the table, wild Alaska pollock must tell its story in a consistent, convincing way—by audience. In understanding how to best communicate wild Alaska pollock’s many attributes, GAPP has worked over the last six months to conduct in-depth stakeholder interviews across the food chain, a comprehensive consumer survey of more than 1,000 respondents nationwide, and a series of consumer focus groups to determine the most salient, motivational, and convincing messaging around the fish.
“Wild Alaska pollock has a strong name recognition, 80 percent of consumers recognize the name, you are starting with an opportunity because there’s great brand equity simply in the name wild Alaska pollock,” said Mary Elizabeth Germaine, head of Ketchum’s Global Insights function while presenting the results of this domestic research.
Germaine noted that while there’s high recognition of the name, consumers don’t know much about the fish’s attributes beyond that.
“There’s a story to be told as people don’t know much about this fish beyond its name—but when you introduce the fish to them you see a significant increase in their willingness to buy,” explained Germaine. “Roughly 25 to 35 percent of consumers will buy wild Alaska pollock just on the name alone, but when you introduce the fish more fully, that number jumps to nearly 50 percent across all three major purchasing categories.”
GAPP and Ketchum sought to understand exactly what elements of the fish drive demand in the marketplace, first by understanding exactly which audience would be most receptive to wild Alaska pollock. The verdict: “They tend to be millennials, they have strong purchasing power, they’re parents, they’re affluent, and they’re educated,” said Germaine. “You know them, they’re all around you.”
This group of future “wild Alaska pollock” advocates value quality over price and, according to the research, will pay more and lean into products that are better for them and better for the world. They are also culinary adventurers and want to use food as a way to see far off places and experience life to the fullest.
To this group, the research showed that the aspects of the fish that are most compelling are its mild flavor, its healthfulness, and its convenience.
“People are looking for products that are mild in flavor so that they can create the exact taste that they want. Think about who this audience is: they’re culinary explorers. They want center-of-the-plate items that they can match to their own flavor schemes and do what they want,” said Germaine.
The healthfulness and fresh taste of the fish are also motivating. “The idea of frozen is not a barrier,” added Germaine.
But while many seafoods can claim healthfulness, convenience, and a mild flavor, the research indicated that what sets wild Alaska pollock apart are its provenance story and its sustainability.
“The differentiator here is where this fish comes from—the icy cold waters of Alaska; that’s what draws people in,” said Germaine. “The sustainability of the fishery and the fact that it will sustain for generations is what keeps them coming back.”
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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.