Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Private labels" outsell "brands" in Europe

This must be some consolation for those in Juneau who set up 12 Regional Seafood Development Associations instead of just a few. This article shows how well private labels are doing, in Europe anyway. And that was the theory behind a lot of "regionals" in Alaska. "Like marketing private label wine," they said. Can't tell by me. I think the RSDAs will fine tune their business plans after they get off the ground. And keep on fine tuning it as the market shifts.

A picture of a compact DEC "pre-approved" heading and gutting set-up.

But the European study should be encouraging to the RSDAs in Alaska. Whether you call it a "regional brand" or a "private label" is just semantics. But if the grocery stores are getting hip to the cool of private labels, then maybe that's what you need to call a package of fish from Bristol Bay or Cordova or Southeast Alaska.

Speaking of Southeast Alaska, the Regional there now has a new web site. You think it's going to be hard to get all those floating cowboys in Bristol Bay going in the same direction, Southeast has THIRTY TIMES AS MANY GEAR GROUPS. It'll make for a real diverse portfolio of products once they can herd up all those fishermen under the Southeast Rainforest WILD label. And that'll make it easier to market any individual product. It'll be like the Sears Roebuck catalogue of fish products. One stop shopping for an industrial scale buyer in China or a mom and pop store in Kansas.

I heard there might be a dab more money for the RSDAs this Legislative session. Lets not put any Legislator's name in the sidewalk yet. Florida caught on to this concept in the 1930s and their Legislature gave the Association there $32 million to get started. It's just that in Alaska the "growers" have never been able to get together properly. Just in little gear groups to fight each other. While the folks in the marketing game just watched them fight the wrong fight.

There won't be another solution for fishermen other than the RSDAs. This is it. This is the brass ring, and it's just each fishermen's vote away. Even if some fishermen form small groups to process and market their own catch, they won't be able to handle all their own catch. So for the most part, they are going to rely on "strangers" to do their marketing. RSDAs are friends marketing for friends you might say.

There is plenty of processing capacity in Alaska to accomplish this. Some fleets have been kidding themselves thinking they are getting the best possible price from their local packer. When the Kodiak pink salmon fishermen forced the packers up there to bump up the ex-vessel price from 7 cents to 12 cents a pound, the other packers in the State followed suit easily. Why didn't they offer 12 cents to start with?

I remember getting 68 cents for dressed pinks one year trolling. If you could use a little bigger seiner, you could put a Ryan gutting machine on board, and get the same price? The RSDAs just need to get up to critical mass so they can work on some of these things. If fishermen want their communities to get away from only 30% local hire in the plants, they need to support the RSDAs so everyone can get away from just selling seafood commodities. There isn't anything an RSDA couldn't do with the collective borrowing power of it's production at the boat level.