ELLSWORTH — Like so many businesses and organizations, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative is hoping for a return to some semblance of normal while preparing for continued uncertainty.
The collaborative’s 2021 marketing plan calls for the group to “remain nimble and (re)plan in real time to address the evolving and unpredictable landscape.”
The group, founded in 2013, is funded by Maine fishermen, dealers and processors to grow demand for Maine lobster and lobster products.
Last spring, as the pandemic unfolded, the group shifted its focus from restaurants and distributors to grocery stores and home cooks, promoting the Maine lobster as an easy-to-prepare and tasty option for home dining.
Marketing efforts included using social media and digital advertising to share recipes and how-to videos. The collaborative worked with dealers to run its first test promotional program with a regional grocery chain, featuring advertising and social media posts promoting Maine lobster through the grocery chain’s marketing channels this past November. The campaign resulted in a 79 percent increase in the sale of Maine lobster at the business during the one-month promotional period, according to Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.
“Because of this success, we will include funding for additional grocery/retail promotions in 2021,” LaCroix wrote in a recent letter to industry members.
Concerns about the fishery’s potential impact on the endangered North Atlantic right whale don’t appear to be deterring customers.
“In 2020, we conducted a survey that found that the majority of consumers are not familiar with the issues regarding right whales and Maine lobster,” LaCroix wrote. “For those who are aware, the matter hasn’t affected their purchasing decisions.”
The 2021 marketing plan calls for the Maine lobster industry to “fiercely protect our reputation (and our people) to drown out naysayers.”
Plans for the current year include continuing to use public relations, social media and advertising to increase awareness of and demand for Maine lobster. The group also is launching a product innovation effort designed to find new uses for underutilized parts of the lobster, such as mince. A partnership with the University of Maine will investigate consumer purchase and consumption habits.
The marketing plan notes that retail seafood sales are up 35 percent over the same period last year, but opportunities lie outside the fresh seafood counter as many consumers seek value-added frozen or processed products.
The collaborative will host an informational session via Zoom on Thursday, Feb. 18, from 6-7 p.m. Register at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEsduugrz0qGNYgKKFictHOxGeQYbt-mXry.