Aquaculture Magazine

April / May 2015

Flat Sales – What we need to do

There are many factors that play roles in trends of flat seafood consumption.  From a consumer’s perspective these range from how easy it is to purchase (availability), to value for money (price), to convenience of preparation/cooking and overall satisfaction of the taste (quality).

When you come to think of it how many industry meetings have there been discussing all these issues where the whole chain gets to talk about their issues and where the whole industry focuses on ensuring the end users’ needs/wants are being met?

That would be very few but many large organisations would be trying to get all their departments cohesively solving such issues. There are very few fully integrated companies in the world of seafood that harvest product and are responsible for the whole chain through to the global end user and we are reliant in many cases on smaller players in the chain. How seriously they treat their role is therefore imperative.

In the US we know a much larger market exists for seafood than we have now because we know that most Americans consume seafood BUT in inadequate amounts to meet federal dietary guidance, especially when evaluated based upon energy needs. This was recently confirmed in a report ‘Intake of Seafood in the US Varies by Age, Income, and Education Level but Not by Race-Ethnicity’ by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Food Science and Nutrition and Centre for Exercise, Nutrition, and Health Sciences.

Knowing how important seafood is to women’s health it is an indictment on us all to see that among seafood consumers, women and individuals of lower age and education levels consumed less seafood and approximately 80%–90% of seafood consumers did not meet seafood recommendations when needs were estimated by energy requirements. The continual confusion over advisories on mercury issues is still playing a big role in this and is fuelled by scare-mongering tactics on the internet and in the media.

Information is available to everyone so we do not need more money wasted on studies and the evidence is overwhelming that the benefits of eating seafood far outweigh any risks. 

If you do want to ‘hang your hat’ on a study look at ‘Fish Consumption and Prenatal Methylmercury Exposure: Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes in the Main Cohort at 17 Years from the Seychelles Child Development Study’. 

The Seychellois consume ocean fish daily and do not consume sea mammals or fresh water fish. In addition, ocean fish in the Seychelles has a Mercury (MeHg) content similar to commercially available fish in most parts of the world. The average consumption in the Seychelles is over eight times the amount of seafood an average American consumes.

We need a ‘call to action’ on two major fronts: negative publicity and empowering our industry supply chain through training. In order to tackle the major problems head on industry and government must collaborate and this needs to happen sooner rather than later. 

Negative publicity is a cancer that has been allowed to happen and we must stop it and eliminate the problem once and for all. This is not about covering up any clandestine industry activity but simply about getting out the truth about the importance of seafood in the diet. It can be only done with a consumer who has confidence. At the moment the consumer is more suspicious of seafood than they have previously been. 

For far too long there has been a fog created about mercury in seafood. There has not been any evidence of any American citizen dying from mercury poisoning from just being a regular seafood eater. The risk factor is heavily weighed the other way – by not eating seafood you are doing yourself harm! Where is that in the mainstream media? 

Every year since the 1930’s over 30,000 people have died on American roads through motor vehicle accidents which equates to about 2.5 million people and the current daily average is around 90 people per day. Has it diminished the demand to drive a motor vehicle? Of course there are rules and regulations and the motor vehicle industry is continually trying to improve its safety record with new innovation and technology.

In that same time ZERO people have been reported dying from eating too much seafood and suffering mercury poisoning. It is time for every one of us to make our feelings known when the media or NGO’s raise the mercury issue. Once the lies and innuendo are out there the information just continues to flow like molten lava taking all before it. We must put those who are promoting the lies to the test of ensuring they show the evidence of harm or promoting their apology with correct information educating people with the truth.  

Any one of you engaging in social media will know that the psyche of the majority of people is that they will long remember the negative before the positive. That has become the nature of politics and media as they know how easy it is to spread a negative message compared to a positive one.

Life, of course, is not always about what your enemy is doing. What you are doing is also important and for too long our industry has done very little. 

To understand the need of having trained staff we need to challenge ourselves and experience what the consumer receives as service. It is doubtful that we would be happy with what we see. At the end user part of the business, where the consumer connects with our industry it is all about service and generally speaking we are at the low end of the spectrum being a nil entry employer (no training required…). When times get tough, training budgets are usually one of the first areas that get slashed. This is an unfortunate phenomenon considering the impact it has on an organization’s recruitment, retention and employee morale. Our businesses are only as good as the people we have working in them, and they are an amazing asset if looked after.

Here are some of the benefits of training your staff:

• Staffing - prospective employees assess job opportunities to determine the fit and they look at the employee benefit package. Tuition reimbursement as a benefit is attractive to employees who endeavor to continue their education but lack the resources to do so. This can be a determining factor in an employee accepting a job offer.

• Company Advantage - the world does not stand still and businesses need to keep their employee skills current in order to be competitive.  Massive competitive advantages can be obtained in software programs, technology changes, and improved seafood knowledge, customer service skills and/or leadership trends.  All are excellent examples of a well trained work force.

• Employee Morale – happy positive well trained employees equals good business. Let us face it, most employees stay satisfied in a job for a period of time and then look for growth opportunities. Employees who continually develop their professional skills or pursue higher education need your support as they are your potential future leaders but will be looking for career advancement opportunities in their future.  Nothing drives employees to remain positive and contribute to the vision of the organization more than this.

• Employee Contributions - employees who are engaged in education outside of your business often bring back what they learn to the organization and apply learned concepts to the job. This offers value to the organization and provides for real life application for the staff member.  It is a win-win for both.

• Employee Retention – staff typically stay with an organization that is footing the bill for their education.  Some organizations require students to stay with the organization for a period of time after graduation to be eligible for tuition reimbursement. Your policies in this area should be considered carefully as you do not want people staying who are resentful of being ‘trapped’ in a program.

Here is another good tip for you – if staff do not want to engage in training then do you need them? People who are not prepared to engage and learn are anchors to your business and you would be better to know that, part company and move on.

Happy Fishmongering….

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