Promotions put salmon in spotlight

PHOTO/Courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Marketing.
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Some in the salmon business have turned to value-added processing, such as filets or burgers, to revitalize the industry. Those efforts are being further aided by grants aimed at marketing the products to the domestic market.
PHOTO/Courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Some in the salmon
Seafood marketers catering to health conscious Americans on the go have cooked up a new recipe for Alaska wild smoked pink salmon, packaging it in a pouch, ready to pop into pasta or spread on a sandwich.

The 3 ounce foil packages of Chicken of the Sea Smoked Alaskan Salmon, produced by NorQuest Seafoods, will be on supermarket shelves nationwide in January, said John Garner, president of NorQuest Seafoods.

Initial plans call for production of 2 million pouches of the smoked wild salmon, for a suggested retail price of $2.99, said Van Effner, director of marketing for Chicken of the Sea in San Diego. The pouches, featuring recipes for lemon fettuccine and smoked salmon sandwiches, will be in more than 33,000 retail stores nationwide, he said.

"It’s definitely an upscale product for people on the go," Effner said.

"It’s easy to use," Garner added. "You don’t need a can opener and you don’t have to refrigerate. It’s ready to go, sized for use in pasta or a smoked salmon sandwich, or straight as a snack item."

Labeling on the pouches shows that 3 ounces of smoked salmon contains 21 grams of protein, 525 milligrams of omega 3 oil, 3.5 grams of fat and 120 calories.

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Chicken of the Sea’s new smoked salmon is just one of many products and efforts to receive grant funding aimed at promoting wild Alaska salmon.
PHOTO/Courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Marketing.
Salmon in a pouch is not a new concept at Chicken of the Sea, which is already successfully marketing 7.1-ounce and 3 ounce pouches of skinless, boneless pink salmon from Alaska. Consumers use it for everything from salmon burgers to salmon croquettes, Effner said.

What’s new is smoked salmon in pouches. "We’re always looking for new products," Effner said.

Effner said Chicken of the Sea plans initial promotions, including coupons in Sunday newspapers and product demonstrations during the initial product kick-off later this year.

"We just announced it to the trade two weeks ago, and we’ve had tremendous success and acceptance initially," he said.

"It would never work if there wasn’t a national brand behind it," Garner said. "They (Chicken of the Sea) have a lot of shelf space already and relationships with the retailers. It is because of their presence and compliment of products that this can be launched in this way."

The promotion hinged in part on almost $780,000 in grant funds for smoked salmon pouches, which NorQuest Seafoods was awarded through a state program to promote Alaska wild salmon. That $779,000 was the largest of several grants, totaling $1.7 million, that the state awarded to NorQuest. Those marketing funds were matched 100 percent, Garner said.

The new Chicken of the Sea/NorQuest venture was announced at an Anchorage news conference Sept. 27, at which state officials also touted the success of another NorQuest Alaska wild salmon promotion with Legal Sea Foods, an East Coast firm with a chain of 30 restaurants. The state grant to NorQuest of $356,250 was matched by $650,000 to $700,000 from Legal Sea Foods, said Roger Berkowitz, chief executive officer of that firm.

Millions granted to aid an ailing industry

The issue of selling Alaska wild salmon domestically on the mass market is a key component of the state’s salmon revitalization strategy, funded with millions of dollars secured by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. The budget includes $35 million in recently appropriated fisheries disaster funds, plus $15 million earmarked for economic development through the Southeast Sustainable Salmon Funds.

Funding is included for direct aid to individuals experiencing economic hardship because of the downturn of the fisheries economy, direct aid to impacted communities, the Alaska wild salmon campaign, fishery economic development programs and fisheries small business assistance.

The Alaska wild salmon campaign includes a national marketing campaign, a quality assurance program and transportation improvements in rural Alaska to get fish to transportation hubs such as Anchorage and Seattle in a timely manner.

The national ad campaign, led by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, is to promote positive attributes of wild salmon, including the nutritional benefit of omega 3 oils. A total of $9.8 million is included in ASMI’s fiscal 2004 budget for marketing efforts.

To improve quality control, the state is working with industry and University of Alaska scientists to implement a comprehensive quality program throughout salmon fishing regions of the state. Grants are also earmarked for research and development efforts through University of Alaska programs such as the Kodiak Fishery Industrial Technology Center.

There are different criteria for a cross section of grants available through the program. So far 73 grants have been awarded, with the largest amounts going to major processors. In addition to the six grants totaling $1.7 million awarded to NorQuest Seafoods, the state has awarded Ocean Beauty Seafoods four grants totaling $2.5 million. Trident Seafoods received $1.4 million for three projects, including $1.2 million to market Alaska salmon burgers in conjunction with Costco Wholesale. Icicle Seafoods received $975,000 for two marketing projects. Ocean Beauty, Trident, Icicle and NorQuest, which is owned by Trident, all have facilities in Alaska, but their corporate offices are in Seattle.

Smaller grants went to a number of other companies, including $520,000 to Leader Creek Fisheries for a Western Alaska sockeye marketing plan; $198,000 to Kwikpak Fisheries for a marketing program for Lower Yukon salmon; $50,000 to Arctic Paws LLC for a trade show marketing plan; $50,000 to Indian Valley Meats to promote new and existing value-added salmon products; and $16,000 to Arctic Circle Seafood for Yukon River Alaska salmon marketing. The amount of matching funds individual grantees must provide varies, depending on the size of the company, state officials said.

In some cases, the program has already begun to pay off handsomely.

"We’re tripled the amount of salmon sold," said Legal Sea Foods’ Berkowitz. "By year’s end we will have gone through 100 tons of salmon."

The Alaska salmon marketing program "gave us an opportunity to explain that all salmon is not the same," Berkowitz said.

Legal Sea Foods started its Alaska wild salmon program in January, and the grant came through in April, he said. "Without the grant, (the promotion) would have taken two-thirds again the time longer," he said.

Updated: 
10/09/2004 - 8:00pm

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