In order to get Millennials to buy more seafood, the industry needs to promote a better message around eating fish and provide more products that appeal to changing tastes, according to panelists in a session on “#Millennials: What Will It Take to Sell Seafood to Generations Y and Z?”
As a whole, the seafood industry tends to talk about fish in terms of quotas and data, said Polly Legendre, founding principal at PR firm Polished Brands. “We have a habit of turning fish into math class.”
Compare that to the beef industry, which uses the slogan “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner.” The seafood industry should instead be focusing on the tastiness of its products, Legendre said.
Multiple panelists noted that Gen Yers don’t want to prepare a big fillet of fish on a plate with a starch or some greens.
“That’s a huge commitment,” said Legendre. “A lot of these younger folks have commitment issues.”
One way to get Millennials to eat more seafood is to encourage them to eat smaller amounts of fish more often, for example bonito flakes of herring, fish charcuterie or fish added to a salad, said Legendre.
She also suggested supermarkets could package fish ready to go on top of a rice bowl. In general, retailers need to “break it out of what we see in the grocery store circulars every single day.”
At the same time, Millennials aren’t as adverse to frozen fish as previous generations, Legendre said.
Millennials also don’t like to have one big fish fillet because that means they can’t eat something else, said Patricia Pinto da Silva, staff scientist, NOAA Fisheries. Gen Yers would prefer to have a selection of small plates to be able to try different foods.
Cooking skills are also an issue for Millennials, but they like to have a hand in assembling their meals, da Silva said. Instead of the big fillet, maybe they might toss cured fish in with some pasta so they still feel like they are contributing to the transformation of the meal.
While cooking knowledge may be a barrier, Millennials are very adventurous eaters, said Alisha Lumea, founding principal, Polished Brands. When it comes to items like head-on fish or head-on shrimp, people tend to think “Americans won’t eat that,” but cooking magazines and travel shows highlight traveling the world in search of culinary adventures that might involve those same items. Lumea said the U.S. seafood industry needs to find a way to take advantage of those trends.
Another opportunity is seafood products beyond fish sticks that are geared towards kids, said Lumea. Millennial moms scrutinize the food they feed their kids much more than the food they eat themselves. Fish would be a good option for providing healthy alternatives, but there aren’t lot of products out there that play into that. Lumea said the industry should be marketing salmon and bay scallops to kids.
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