The “Putting the Food Back into Seafood” panel at the Seafood Expo was almost more of a discussion in a classroom between people who are directly or tangentially involved in the seafood industry — a chef, a food writer, a Chipotle executive and a boutique seafood distributor — than a formal panel.
The entire hour and a half of this session was in a loose, question-and-answer format. The bigger question the panel looked at was how seafood has become the “other” in food. The panelists all agreed that seafood, unlike produce and other proteins, is often lumped into its own category far removed from other food.
Joshua Brau, director of Food With Integrity program at Chipotle, had some interesting insights on Chipotle’s approach and how it might be applied to the seafood industry. Brau said that there’s a disconnect between those who produce food and those who consume it because most consumers are many generations away agriculture and producing seafood is that much more obscure for them.
Brau said that Chipotle strives to elevate food from being just a commodity by telling stories about their food.
When asked about Chipotle’s marketing approach (which has been very aggressive lately in promoting the benefits of the company's sourcing methods through popular, long commercials on YouTube and a sponsored Hulu series called "Farmed and Dangerous"), Brau pointed to how consumer education benefits Chipotle.
“Because we are focused on buying the very best ingredients we can find and really contributing to solutions to all of the sort of food system related issues that we are facing that our business can have an impact on, I think it’s really important to educate our customers about these issues— not only because it’s important for them to understand what we’re doing, but we also believe that the more they know about these issues — whether it’s antibiotics or GMOs or animal welfare, the list goes on — we think they are more likely to choose Chipotle, the more they know about these issues and the more they understand what we’re doing.”
While Chipotle doesn’t serve fish, Brau said that they are working only new concepts “that have very limited either fish bases or fish sauce or actual seafood options.”