by Laine Welch-
Alaska Seafood “On Trend” with the Nation’s Peak Spenders
Millennials are now the nation’s “peak spenders” and they are gravitating towards healthier eating which favors more seafood.
“We see year over year that there is this cohort aged 35 to 54 that is going to be spending far more across categories, including food expenditures, than any others,” said Will Notini, consumer insights manager at Chicago-based Technomic, a leading market tracker for over 50 years.
The company has contracted with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to identify trends in seafood consumption and how best to position Alaska seafood in a changing marketplace. The bottom line is that America’s households are becoming much more diverse and changes in taste and technology will shape the future of seafood eaters.
A presentation called the Seafood Consumer of the Future showed that there has been a 30 percent increase in seafood consumption by millennials in the past year, and 70 percent have changed their diets to eat healthier foods. The trend is especially noticeable with millennial preferences for proteins.
Nearly 60 percent of those consumers said that seafood is healthier than beef or pork; 43 percent said the same for chicken or turkey.
“We’re seeing that people are moving towards seafood and plant based proteins. There are significant increases among those particular categories, so seafood should expect to see large growth,” Notini said.
Technomic surveys also showed that 71 percent of millennials said they are more interested in where their foods come from and how they are grown or produced.
“That’s why they buy things labeled as organic or specific sourcing,” he explained. “People are looking for those origins that are known to have high quality products, whether that’s California wine or Georgia peaches, and Alaska is strongly associated with seafood. There is an expectation that those sources will be displayed, whether it’s online, at grocery stores or at restaurants.”
Another trend gaining traction among millennials is knowing what’s in their foods.
“They are looking at labels and ingredient lists, can they pronounce it, have they seen it before – these are tools that consumers are using to identify what in their mind is healthy, familiar and not processed,” Notini said.
Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed preferred wild seafood over farmed, and said it is important that their choices “don’t hurt the environment.”
“In general, wild is the greater draw for consumers,” Notini said. “And I think that Alaska seafood is one of the labels that really speaks to that premium. But there is more education that needs to happen in order to access the true value in wild caught versus farm raised.”
Alaska seafood is very ‘on trend’ in hitting the points consumers are tuned into, Notini added. A second phase of the ASMI study is digging further into the existing trends, he said, and asking consumers specifically about Alaska seafood and “how it fits into this landscape.”
There may be some challenges with the growth of e-commerce shopping, but he believes Alaska seafood is better positioned than most others.
Digital grocery usage last year increased to 23 percent, according to Technomic, and 43 percent of Americans said they do their online shopping in bed.
Crabbers will help test the waters for Tanners next month at Prince William Sound.
The fishery will open under a Commissioner’s Permit that is issued in special circumstances. It will be the first time since 1988 that commercial crab pots are dropped in western and eastern portions of outside waters.
“Basically, it’s a fact-finding mission,” said Jan Rumble, area management biologist for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet shellfish and groundfish at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game office in Homer.
“We don’t know what is out there and we want to find out. What we do know is there was a small amount of crab in the western district, but we are encouraging people to go and explore,” she said.
The trial opener was prompted by increasing numbers of Tanner crabs being pulled up in subsistence pots, and the fact that the department’s trawl survey does not focus on those two districts.
“The survey last summer produced poor legal male results but some good numbers of pre-recruits. Much of the western area can’t be accessed with trawl gear and crabbers can help us investigate further,” Rumble added.
The fishery, which will open March 1 and could run through the month, will be small scale and it is anyone’s guess how much crab it will produce.
“There is no guideline harvest level. This is a fact-finding mission,” she emphasized.
Crabbers must get a permit from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and will be required to call in catches daily. The fishery also is super-exclusive, meaning it is off limits to those who have dropped pots for Tanners elsewhere, such as at Kodiak’s recent fishery.
“People in Kodiak who are vessel operators and their vessels cannot jump over and participate in Prince William Sound,” Rumble said.
Crabbers also must show that they have a market for their catch and Trident is planning to process the crab out of Cordova.
Decades ago the Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Yakutat regions kept local processors busy all year with big catches of Tanners, king and Dungeness crab. But stocks plummeted with the arrivals of huge schools of cod and pollock and have been slow to recover, if at all.
The Tanner trial gives a glimmer of hope, but Rumble said people should not have unrealistic expectations.
“This is exploratory and we are optimistic that we can get some information, but we also are encouraging people to understand why we are doing this and what we are after,” she said, adding that the results of the Tanner test fishery will determine what happens next.
Pebble Mine Permit Comments
The public has until February 20 to comment to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on an application to continue exploratory mining activities near Iliamna.
The activities include “the drilling of geotechnical and exploratory boreholes, re-activation of an acid rock drainage test site, and continued reclamation and maintenance activities,” according to a DNR release.
Other authorizations requested include Water Use, Miscellaneous Land Use Permits (MLUPs), and Reclamation Plan Approval for exploration and/or care and maintenance operations.
The DNR Division of Mining, Land and Water proposes to issue a MLUP for “exploration activity on state mining claims, as well as reclamation approval on state lands. Winter cross country travel on state lands not within state mining claims may also be authorized.”