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September 26, 2022

National Lobster Day a boon for Maine vendors

People lined up at Bite Into Maine lobster truck Photo / Renee Cordes At Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, the Bite into Maine food truck was a beehive of activity on Sunday, National Lobster Day.

During a turbulent time for Maine's lobster industry, Sunday's National Lobster Day promotion buoyed business — and spirits — of crustacean vendors across the state.

National Lobster Day,  celebrated on Sept. 25, fell on a Sunday this year, as per a bipartisan resolution introduced by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate in August.

Maine's two senators have sponsored similar legislation every year since 2015, and King is also responsible for the introduction of lobster emoji in 2018, enabling the use of the red icon in emails, text messages and social media posts. 

Without giving any detailed guidance, U.S. Senate Resolution 742 encourages the people of the United States "to observe the special day with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Maine lobster retailers who took the instruction to heart include Luke's Lobster, which has 19 locations in the United States, including a spot at Portland Pier that opened in 2018 and three in the Washington, D.C., area. That includes two in D.C. proper and one in Bethesda, Md.

On Sunday, the company sold more products than expected, according to Ben Conniff, the company's co-founder and chief innovation officer.

Ben Conniff
Courtesy / Luke's Lobster
Ben Conniff is a co-founder and chief innovation officer of Luke's Lobster.

"It was a super successful holiday for sure," Conniff told Mainebiz on Monday.

"We sold over 5,000 lobster rolls in our shacks, and Portland Pier alone sold almost 500 twin lobster specials," he said, adding that online market sales were 20% above already high expectations.

"Definitely one of the most impactful NLD's we have seen yet," he said of this year's event.

He also reported a "huge jolt of fun and excitement" for Luke's Lobster employees, many of whom recorded videos of themselves in lobster suits around the country.

Luke's Lobster was also among more than 50 restaurants that participated in the second annual Maine Lobster Week from Sept. 19-25, offering special dishes, meals and prices.

Like Luke's, Bite Into Maine, which currently has 32 employees on the payroll,  reported positive results from this year's National Lobster Day.

The company has trucks at Fort Williams Park, Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland and for catering, and a bricks-and-mortar facility in Scarborough it uses as a commissary.

"National Lobster Day was a success,"  said Kevin Deyak, director of operations at Bite Into Maine. "It’s always great to see our customers a few more times as the season winds down. Sales were up over last year and we couldn’t be happier from the support we receive from our Portland, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth communities.""

Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Cooperative, said the Portland-based organization had heard from a couple of vendors who reported a 20% increase in online sales this past National Lobster Day.

"We know from Google that there are more searches for lobster recipes and products around National Lobster Day than any other holiday," she said. "This is significant because Christmas, New Year and Valentine's Day are all times of high demand for lobster. We're thrilled that the holiday brings attention to Maine lobster right in the middle of the peak harvest season."

'Inseparable part of Maine's history'

The celebrations come as the industry and politicians continue to push back against a controversial negative rating of Maine lobster by Seafood Watch, owned and operated by California's Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Accentuating the positive this time around, Maine's two Senators issued a joint statement last week touting lobster as an "inseparable part of Maine's history, heritage and identity" and paying homage to those working in the industry.

“National Lobster Day is a chance to recognize the thousands of Maine people who power the state’s iconic industry — from the men and women who work on the docks, to those who catch, process, and cook the exceptional crustacean," they said. "These hardworking folks are all authors of Maine’s success story and have been responsible stewards of our waters for generations."

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