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April 29, 2021

National seafood intel to offer competitive advantage for Maine businesses

tossing tote FILE PHOTO / LAURIE SCHREIBER Coastal Enterprises Inc. acquired competitive national seafood industry sales information to give Maine’s aquaculture and seafood businesses, such as the lobster industry, a competitive edge to expand their markets.

Data on national seafood sales is expected to give Maine’s aquaculture and seafood businesses a competitive edge by helping them identify the best prospects for market expansion.

Coastal Enterprises Inc. has acquired competitive national seafood industry sales information as part of its Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative, a pilot effort to establish a state seafood marketing association promoting all of Maine’s seafood products, according to a news release.

The nonprofit is sharing the data with Maine’s aquaculture and seafood industries.

“This intel gives Maine companies a competitive advantage over out-of-state producers and distributers,” Nick Branchina, director of CEI’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Program and principal of the Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative, said in the release.

"In part due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, our seafood businesses are seeking to diversify and expand out-of-region sales. As they recover lost revenues and begin to pivot back to ‘normalcy’ within the domestic food and dining industries, new market opportunities will prove critical to sustaining jobs throughout Maine’s entire seafood supply chain, with the potential to create additional revenues and job growth throughout the sector in the coming years.”

The syndicated broadline sales data for key Maine species identifies regional and metropolitan markets in the U.S., taking the guesswork out of where Maine businesses have the best prospects for expanding sales.  

Fast adjustments

“We opened our business in February 2020, just prior to COVID,” said Matt Brown, co-founder of SoPo Seafood, a locally owned and operated seafood wholesaler and online fish market in Biddeford. “With fast adjustments, we developed a business model combining local delivery, online retail and domestic wholesale customers. This data is going to help us target markets in the U.S. that we anticipate will reopen as the pandemic recedes. As we seek to expand our business this kind of competitive information will enhance our domestic sales both retail and wholesale.”

The data will be made available upon request to Maine businesses free of charge. 

The information is a combination of data from two national market research firm, NPD Group and Nielsen, along with CEI’s analysis.

The intel identifies key national markets outside of Maine and New England that are most likely to provide outlets for the purchase of Maine’s best-selling seafood products, creating roadmap of where there is most potential for domestic sales for key species.

In the fall  of 2020, CEI’s Maine Seafood Marketing Initiative surveyed Maine’s seafood harvesters, farms, distributors and processors. The respondents indicated that their top-selling Maine species by dollars are lobster, finfish (both groundfish and Atlantic salmon), mussels, scallops and oysters. 

The survey further revealed that 77% of Maine companies sell 50% of their total sales out of state to Pacific/Mountain, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and East North Central states.  

“This data also provides information on where Maine’s seafood and aquaculture species are valued at retail, and which U.S. foodservice markets were expanding pre-COVID and have great potential to rebound going forward,” said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of Portland business consulting firm Montserrat Group, which serves as the initiative’s project consultant.

Funding for the initiative is provided by CEI with a matching grant from the Maine Technology Institute. As part of its strategy to catalyze jobs in Maine’s food economy, FocusMaine helped support the purchase of the broadline data, and additional retail data was secured through a partnership with the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs. 

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