“We know that consumers need to eat more seafood, that people want to eat more seafood as illustrated by them eating it all the time at restaurants,” but many Americans don’t because “there are a lot of barriers at home that prevent them from eating it,” Jeff Tahnk, vice president of retail marketing at High Liner Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Our job is to bring down a lot of those barriers and make seafood easier to eat and more delicious so that people eat it more often” and can enjoy its health benefits, he said.
“The biggest barrier” to Americans eating more seafood is that doing so is not a part of the country’s culture, and therefore many people do not have a large repertoire of recipes that they can easily and quickly follow for a fast, nutritious meal, Tahank said.
This leads to the misconception that “seafood is boring,” which Tahank says, “we take a lot of passion in overcoming.”
He explained that “a lot of people have two or three recipes for which they prepare seafood, but beyond that not a ton of exploration to flavors and ethnic varieties. I think people probably have 10 times more recipes for chicken than they do for seafood,” making poultry and easier go-to for weekly meals.
But High Liner Foods is lowering this barrier by rolling out to retailers now 10 new frozen fish filet and wild sea scallop products under its Sea Cuisine brand that provide Americans the versatility they crave but don’t currently have. The products feature a wide-range of emerging global flavor combinations inspired by food service, such as Mango Habanero Tilapia, Asian Grill Rubbed Salmon, Stout Spiked BBQ Salmon and Montreal Seasoned Cod.
Overcoming high price perceptions
At a price point of roughly $7.99 for two servings, the Sea Cuisine line also addresses another “massive” hurdle that stops some Americans from eating fish at home: the perception that it is more expensive than other protein sources, Tahank said.
“Our goal is to try to get seafood beyond a special occasion event and to think about it when you are on a Wednesday night with your family or other occasions,” such as breakfast and lunch, he said.
He added that the high quality seasonings already on the seafood in the Sea Cuisine line also address the perception of expense by taking away consumers’ fear that they will “mess up” an expensive piece of fish because they don’t know how to prepare it.
“We make it easy to cook and make sure people have a great first experience so that they come back and eat it again and again,” he said.
Fresh versus frozen
Another challenge the company is actively tackling with the new line is the perception that frozen is not as good as fresh, Tahank said.
“There certainly are trends that today’s consumers are shopping on the perimeter of the store and buying fresher foods to prepare at home,” Tahank acknowledged, but he added “frozen has a lot of benefits,” including convenience, for those nights when preparing a fresh meal isn’t an option.
“I would like to prepare meals at home from scratch every night, but I don’t. And frozen plays a big part of lives” as an alternative, he said.
Frozen also can deliver a higher quality protein than fresh since it is frozen closer to the source, Tahank said.
“A lot of times, fresh seafood does travel great distances, so when you are getting frozen seafood that is frozen at the source, its protein is preserved at its best. So, I think, we are always trying to break down some of those myths and barriers” to frozen seafood, he said.
Helping consumers easily navigate the category
To entice shoppers to the frozen aisle, which many may now avoid in an effort to buy fresh instead, Sea Cuisine comes in transparent patented skin pack trays that show off the seasoning and high quality seafood, Tahank said.
“We want to show off everything you are going to get so that the consumer can be confident that the before and after as they cook it will look great,” he explained.
The trays also have bright jewel-toned, color-coded banners that help consumers quickly spot specific types of fish, such as salmon or cod, and which help the brand stand out from the competition.
“The seafood category is definitely fragmented. You see a lot of different packages, a lot of different brands. So, we wanted to try and simplify the shopping experience by color coding the species to try and make it a little bit easier for people to navigate through not only our product line, but also eventually to simplify the entire category and shopping experience,” he said.
He added that by launching so many SKUs at once, the company also increased its chances of securing larger blocks on the shelf, which also boosts its chances that consumers will see it.
This strategy also works well for retailers by drawing more and new shoppers down the frozen aisle and into the category, he said.
Going forward, Tahank says Sea Cuisine will continue to engage consumers by launching new on-trend flavors as well as options beyond dinner.