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August 26, 2020

In fragile lobster economy, Maine marketing group targets home cooks

The ongoing pandemic and a retaliatory tariff by China, previously the second largest export market for Maine lobster, have left the lobstering industry in a fragile economic state.

And with two of the industry’s largest markets struggling — restaurants operating at reduced capacity and cruise ships shut down — the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has turned its attention to home cooks.

The collaborative is funded by lobster harvesters, dealers and processors. Its aim is to build demand for whole live lobster and a variety of value-added products.

In the past, the collaborative has focused its promotional campaigns on media partnerships and on chefs, since restaurants are typically where lobster is consumed, the collaborative’s executive director, Marianne LaCroix, told Mainebiz. Campaigns have included bringing chefs and harvesters together.

“We pivoted to look at where the opportunities were going to be most solid this year,” LaCroix said. “We developed a lot of material and content for consumers this year.”

The goal is to reach people who may want to prepare lobster at home but haven’t had experience with that in the past. 

“We have lots of videos and instructions on how to cook lobster, how to shuck lobster — all the things that might be handled at a restaurant,” she said. 

Information is being disseminated on the collaborative’s website and through social media. 

The collaborative’s new home cooks hub provides resources specifically designed to educate and inspire those cooking in their homes with recipes and videos. 

Visits to the collaborative’s “Shipped to your home” page increased more than doubled in July compared to a year ago. The collaborative has also seen 45% more visits to its “Buying Wholesale” page in July 2020 than in July 2019

In addition, the collaborative is working to generate consumer interest by soliciting stories about home delivery in media outlets Real Simple, Thrillist and In the Know.

“We always had some level of consumer content available, but not nearly as much as this year,” she said.

Links on the collaborative’s home page lead to  resources for the home cook.

The collaborative is looking to inform consumers of the resources by pushing the information out though its digital program. 

“We push a lot of content out through social media, through working with influencers, and through digital advertising,” she said. 

The collaborative seeks influencers who have content that already that aligns with lobster, such as those who share recipes.

“We’re looking for people who have high levels of engagement from the people who are following them,” she said.

Retail promotions

The collaborative is also working with distributors and retailers to set up store promotions, she added.

“Each retailer is a little different, because they all have their own marketing packages,” she said. “So it’s working with the retailer to deliver Maine lobster ads that might be on their home page, or recipes or how-to videos emailed to their shoppers, or going through their social media channels. Some have different promotional periods, like summer grilling promotions, so we’re working with those elements.”

The economic shutdown in March occurred well before the fishery began its typical season. 

“That gave us an opportunity to sasses the situation and  determine the best course of action,” said LaCroix. “We had a couple of months to change our strategy and put together new content for when the season started in June.”

Last week, the lobstering industry got a boost when the European Union announced it will end tariffs on imports of U.S. lobster, retroactive to Aug. 1.

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