Industry has its say on seafood marketing

Industry support for marketing initiatives is growing, building on early market research and the positive progress of initial industry campaigns

The FRDC has a clearer understanding of what industry wants at the individual company, sector and national level following the completion of one of the largest industry surveys the FRDC has undertaken.


“In the September issue of FISH we indicated that we would spend six months gathering the industry’s views,” the FRDC’s manager for communications, trade and marketing, Peter Horvat, says. “We have been out doing this. We have met face to face with many people, businesses and sectors, listening to what fishers and farmers want.”

Graphic showing increase in stakeholder engagement 2011 to 2015 Figure 1 Increase in stakeholder engagement with the FRDC, 2011 to 2015.

In addition to the face-to-face meetings and many emails and discussions on social media, the FRDC commissioned a stakeholder survey, which began in late 2014 and was completed in February 2015.

In total, 274 seafood industry members – comprising 72 of the top 300 companies and a further 202 smaller business – participated.

The survey is part of the FRDC program of research that aims to provide direct feedback from industry. In the latest survey a series of specific questions on marketing were included. The marketing questions aim to provide the FRDC with some quantitative and qualitative data for the development of a national seafood marketing framework.

Is a national plan important?

It is very clear that the majority (80 per cent) of stakeholders are supportive of the need for a national marketing plan. However, just over half (53 per cent) are convinced that it can be achieved. Key to this is the frequent comment and belief that fishers are fiercely independent and protective of their patch. However, most also agree that this needs to change if the industry is to succeed.

More importantly, almost half (45 per cent) indicate that they are willing to financially contribute to a national marketing plan (Figures 1 and 2). This also reflects the number of industry stakeholders who already invest in marketing (44 per cent).

National priorities

The three key areas industry indicated as priorities for marketing are:

  • ensuring the public has a positive perception of the industry;
  • developing export markets; and
  • promoting and advertising seafood products (Figure 3).

The list of top responses shows that marketing is clearly a major focus; however, the need for market-focused research, development and extension (RD&E) also features strongly. Education of consumers, development of quality standards and ensuring seafood safety all form part of the suite of activities that underpin marketing.

Bar chart showing stakeholder satisfaction with how the FRDC invests Figure 2 Stakeholder satisfaction with how the FRDC invests Graphic showing 2015 level of satisfaction with how the FRDC invests by commercial sector Figure 3 2015 level of satisfaction with how the FRDC invests by commercial sector. Graphic showing satisfaction with investment Figure 4 Satisfaction with investment

The results provide a clear direction on where the industry at a national level wants to head. At the company or sector level it is a slightly different story. The two key areas industry is keen to invest in are advertising their business or sector and promoting the quality of product to customers (Figure 4).

Another key indicator of where industry wants to invest is evaluation, with increased sales and profitability being the main measure of return on investment (Figure 5). This clearly shows that community perceptions are only seen as a priority at the national level.

Marketing framework

The FRDC will use feedback from industry and stakeholders to begin drafting a national seafood marketing framework.

This will encompass the broad range of activities that link to and form part of an integrated approach to marketing including: consumer research, quality systems, food safety, and campaign planning and evaluation. In addition, national and sectoral marketing plans will be added as they are developed.

The FRDC has engaged Lachlan Bowtell (formerly with Meat and Livestock Australia) to help develop the marketing framework.

Once a draft is completed it will be available for public comment on the Seafood Marketing website.

Marketing levies development

As part of developing the appropriate systems and knowledge, the FRDC has met with the Levies Revenue Service within the Australian Department of Agriculture. The meeting was to establish a clear picture of the processes, steps and time frames required to put in place a statutory levy, in case industry decides to go down this path.

The Australian Government is reviewing levies, with several inquiries underway (or just completed) including the industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and RD&E levies in the agricultural sector.

For more on the inquiries, visit the Parliament of Australia website.

Australian Wild Abalone™

Keeping a close watching brief on the levy review is the Abalone Council Australia (ACA). The ACA has started discussing an abalone marketing levy with a view to funding the continuation and expansion of the Australian Wild Abalone™ (AWA) program.

While the ACA is aware the Senate’s Levy Review may have an impact on how levies are handled in the future, it also understands the need to advance the discussion on marketing.

Over the past five years, a small team has been conducting RD&E activities in China (including Hong Kong), and more recently Singapore and Japan, regarding AWA™. This important and timely research project was initiated by the ACA in 2010 and has been supported with RD&E funding provided by the FRDC and the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre (Seafood CRC).

The market research has underpinned the development of the AWA™ program. The program includes the AWA™ certification trademark, supply-chain education, brand-protection technology through NanoTag Technology® and other tamper-evident packaging, preparation of submissions to government negotiating free trade agreements (in collaboration with Southern Rock Lobster) and funding risk assessments by SafeFish. Taking this holistic approach has put in place a solid foundation for future activities.

About 80 per cent of Australia’s abalone exporters (measured by value and volume of sales) have signed up to the AWA™ program since it was launched in Shanghai in 2010. Likewise, a significant number of abalone importers (more than 50) in China (including Hong Kong), Singapore and Japan have endorsed and are actively supporting the AWA™ program.

Graphic showing where people get their information about the fisheries industry Figure 5 2015 industry information sources

In China and Hong Kong importers are waiting for (and encouraging Australia) to begin AWA™ ‘in-market’ activities and to launch the AWA™ promotional presence. With voluntary funding from the Tasmanian Abalone Council, the AWA™ program will soon have an online presence in China and several promotional activities are planned, including a chef ambassador competition with the China Cuisine Association.

From research to marketing

As the AWA™ program transitions from an RD&E project to full commercialisation, the time has come for it to stand independently, with funding sources transitioning from RD&E (the FRDC and the Seafood CRC) to marketing and promotion.

If the Australian abalone industry wants the AWA™ program to go forward and promote Australian wild-caught abalone products on a global stage into the future, industry needs to establish a dedicated funding mechanism.

The AWA™ project is a generic promotion of Australian wild abalone based on the values of the product and why people in these markets should purchase it in preference to abalone from other supply sources. The AWA™ program is not involved in buying or selling abalone, just the promotion of the brand.

Executive officer of the ACA Dean Lisson says managing the next steps is critical for the long-term success of the program. It is important that all abalone industry stakeholders are properly informed about what has been happening to date with the AWA™ program and the activities planned for the future.

More regular updates about the program will be provided to all Australian abalone stakeholders, who are encouraged to contribute to the design of this important industry-wide initiative.

The AWA™ project team has been travelling to each of the abalone-producing states and hosting briefing sessions with stakeholders – abalone divers, licence and quota owners, processors and exporters.

Briefing sessions have taken place across the country, including in Hobart, Port Lincoln (South Australia), Fremantle (Western Australia), Merimbula (New South Wales) and Mallacoota (Victoria).

Copies of the presentation and answers to frequently asked questions from stakeholders are available on the FRDC’s marketing website.

For more information on the AWA™ program contact: Dean Lisson: or Jayne Gallagher:

Prawn farmers pave path to market

The Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) board met in November 2014 and voted unanimously to work towards a more formalised way to collect marketing contributions
from members.

In October 2001, the APFA became the first (and only) organisation to put in place a statutory R&D levy. The APFA board, R&D committee.

More information

Peter Horvat, 02 6285 0400