Fixing Seafood’s Style Problem

this article was originally posted in our column on branding and marketing for SEA, Seafood Experience Australia.

originally posted July 2012

Seafood has a style problem. If people are going to consume more seafood, they’re going to have to be tempted by it. People buy with their eyes — and that’s not just home cooks. Chefs are products of our image-conscious culture too, and they resonate with the power of good presentation.

Seafood Source has been opening up the discussion of how much need there is for a fresh look. In the Seafood Source Brussels Blog of April 20 this year, editors reviewed the new product winners, concluding: “The judges agreed that the only room for innovation right now is in packaging and marketing.”

In an April 25, 2012 article titled Time Has Come for Packaging Innovation, Steve Hedlund of Seafood Source talked to Simon Smith, sales and Marketing manager for Seachill, which produces the Saucy Fish label in the UK, reporting that in just two years since launching, The Saucy Fish Co. has racked up more than GBP 40 million in sales. Key to the product’s success is the appeal of its packaging. “’The industry is so focused on trading. We did a huge amount of research and found out that the consumer is looking for more warmth and emotion [in packaging].” Smith added that seafood packaging is often “too clinical.’”

The good news: so little is currently being attempted in the marketplace that there’s ample opportunity to innovate and stand out from the competition.


Look Like You Belong

The classic bit of career advice that you should dress for the job you want applies to your product too.  Whether that’s snacks for kids or a white tablecloth restaurant, your product needs to resonate with the consumers you want. It needs to fit their idea of who they want to be and how they want to be living. If you want to design a product that young urban foodies will pick up for dinner, look hip. If you’re product is top quality and expensive, look like you deserve to be expensive.


Consumer Facing

To help you start thinking about what’s possible, we’ve put together a round up of the best new packaging in seafood. (see image at top)

Let’s have a look at what’s working here.

1)     Use of color. Notice there’s no dark blue, maroon or that bright raincoat yellow that makes everybody think of primary school or traffic signs. Lighter, fresher colors are winning the day. Bright colors feel optimistic. In fashionable tones, they can feel sophisticated. Crisp black and white can be both clean and elegant.


2)     Illustration offers a great way to transmit a mood. Think beyond cartoon fishermen and ships’ wheels…please.


3)     Fun. Whimsy. Humor. People like that stuff. Fun doesn’t mean jokey. It’s more about being unexpected.


Trade Facing

To the trade doesn’t need to mean ugly or careless. The chef isn’t going to send out a dish that’s slopped ona plate, no matter how delicious, and expect to win customers that way. Don’t send your fish to the kitchen looking bland and unremarkable.

Fresh seafood comes with the challenge of not being packaged, but it’s all transported in something, even if that’s a shipping box. A good-looking box commands attention and respect. Care went into presenting it, so the message that it should be well treated comes with that. That goes for the driver who loads it onto a truck and the line cook who is sent to fetch it out of the walk-in. It’s says: “I’m the good stuff. Don’t mess me up.”

Additionally, putting a visual with a name makes your product more memorable. To keep customers, they need to remember that you exist. Putting an eye-catching image with your brand name leverages the way people learn to keep your product front of mind for chefs as they pass through their careers and from kitchen to kitchen.

Here are some of the best examples of exterior boxes we’ve seen. They immediately communicate the style and feel of their brand. They look special, but it’s no more expensive to print a good-looking box than an ugly one. There may be a one-time design cost, but it will keep on giving for years. All three of these boxes are single color print jobs on standard materials — most likely what you’re already paying for.

As you think of launching new products or are considering ways to get more market share, remember that a little style and imagination goes a long way.

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 33

 weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Another idea that we're excited about: Local Food Lab, a California based incubator and collaborative workspace for early stage sustainable food and farm startups.
  • Hands Off our Special Regions, says the European Commission to an American initiative calling for the unfettered use of what are currently protected food and drink monikers, such as Parmesan and port. How 'bout we put some creativity into creating new names. One of our favorites: Quady Winery's Starboard, a port-style wine made in California.

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 27

a weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food

  • An amazing project of food, history and identity, The Southern Discomfort Tour, by the Cooking Gene. Michael Twitty explains the project in an essay entitled The cook who picks cotton: reclaiming my roots. "Slavery is not just a practice or moment in American history; it is a metaphor for our relationships to lifestyles and food systems that many of us view as beyond our control. Most of us are enslaved to food systems that aren’t sustainable, but eat we must. And because we must eat, food is a natural vehicle for telling the kinds of stories about historical slavery and the impact of “race” on how we eat, even as we critique and question our contemporary food politics. Food is our vehicle to move beyond race and into relationships and use those relationships to promote the kind of racial reconciliation and healing, our nation desperately needs."




Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 18

a weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food

  • If you thought bacon and mint sounded weird, how about champagne and graffiti for a real high-low mash up. Moët & Chandon has teamed up with graffiti artist André for a limited edition "Tag your love" packaging for its Rosé Impérial champagne. (video at bottom of the page is priceless)
  • The latest farmer-chef collaboration getting some buzz — bespoke syrups.

"You drive me to confess in ink:
Once I was fool enough to think
That brains and sweetbreads were the same,
Till I was caught and put to shame,
First by a butcher, then a cook,
Then by a scientific book.
But 'twas by making sweetbreads do
I passed with such a high I.Q."

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 14

 a weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Old-school kitchen frugality is elevated to a trend as chefs turn scraps into stunning second acts. “It helps in the cost of running a business and it’s respect for the product. That speaks louder than just the food.”
  • Going right to the source, chefs and farmers join forces, briding the kitchen-field divide and resulting in better ingredients. "There are so many parallels, business-wise, between a farm and restaurant operations that often people on both sides don't see."