WANTED: KNOW-HOW

It's been said many times before, but bears repeating: Supermarkets that want to make money selling seafood need knowledgeable sales associates who can answer a wide range of questions confidently and encourage consumers to buy products.ed Slade Gorton, a leading maker of fresh and frozen seafood products. "If you have employees at the seafood counter who don't know the answers, it sets you at a loss."Educating

It's been said many times before, but bears repeating: Supermarkets that want to make money selling seafood need knowledgeable sales associates who can answer a wide range of questions confidently and encourage consumers to buy products.

ed Slade Gorton, a leading maker of fresh and frozen seafood products. "If you have employees at the seafood counter who don't know the answers, it sets you at a loss."

Educating retailers on selling and merchandising seafood products is a focus for many major seafood companies, such as Slade Gorton. "We want to make sure they know what they're selling," said Perham, whose company supplies club stores, wholesalers and chain restaurants, as well as supermarkets.

Consumers today are more inclined to quiz seafood department associates on any number of issues, including health and sustainability, a retailer told SN. "Educated [associates] are very important," said Jonathan Copeland, national seafood buyer for Wild Oats Markets, a 102-store natural foods chain based in Boulder, Colo. "The more you put into training and education, the more it will help you in the long run."

Selling seafood is not for everyone. One challenge for retailers is finding the right help to staff seafood departments. Carson, Calif.-based Bristol Farms this year plans to roll out an apprentice program consisting of on-the-job training for young associates with an interest in selling fish. Modeled after the company's successful meat apprenticeship program, the training, to run for about two years, will give associates a comprehensive overview of all aspects of seafood merchandising -- from handling requirements to sanitation to customer service, an official with the chain told SN.

"We put this together out of self-defense," said Pete Davis, senior director of meat, seafood and sushi for Bristol Farms, an upscale, 11-store chain of gourmet and specialty food stores. "It's difficult to attract good people to seafood jobs. You can't just push somebody into it. People have to have an affinity for the seafood business. [The apprentice program] will help us get the kind of people we want."