This week the National Fisheries Institute held the Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC), an annual industry conference dedicated to covering trends, insight, and expertise on seafood products, markets, and consumers. Normally, industry stakeholders would have flown from all over the globe to attend the event, but like most other things over the past year, the conference was held virtually.
Virtual or not, the content covered at the GSMC event was informative, insightful, and energizing. Seattle Fish Co.’s President & CEO, Derek Figueroa, is serving as 2021 NFI Chair and had an opportunity to address GSMC attendees with his state of the industry speech to wrap up the conference on Friday. Figueroa spoke about his optimism for the industry moving forward; citing lessons learned during this pandemic to envision and capitalize on opportunities for the future.
The pandemic was, of course, a hot topic at the conference. We learned so much this year, maybe than any in years past, about the vulnerabilities of our industry – but also our power to overcome when we join together.
With that in mind, we wanted to share our Top 5 GSMC Takeaways:
- The protein landscape is changing.
When we say protein, chicken, beef, pork and seafood is likely what initially comes to mind. However, that is rapidly changing, and consumers are being offered more options than ever before: like faux-seafood, plant-based, and cell-based aquaculture proteins. Companies like BlueNalu are disrupting the protein world by developing sustainable, great-tasting, and healthy seafood – all growth from cells. Beef supply is also expected to be more scarce and more expensive over the next 4-5 years; so it’s the perfect time for alternative proteins and seafood to have a shot at center stage and become the “protein of choice” for consumers.
- Pandemic-era technology is here to stay.
Speaking of consumers….consumers have adapted to takeout and delivery options over the past year – and they don’t want it to go away. Foodservice will have to continue offering takeout and delivery as a part of their growth plans in the future. We’ve also seen very quick advancements and technology in packaging, which has made it easier for restaurants to offer portable seafood dishes. Since the majority of seafood consumption happens while dining out, this will continue to be important for our industry.
- Consumers want options.
We’ve all been cooking at home more lately; and it’s causing some “kitchen exhaustion”. Consumers want more options, and seafood, being a versatile protein with so many species to try – is perfectly poised to fulfill that void. Suppliers and retailers alike will be challenged to offer consumers new, innovative ways to try seafood. Value-added items, like meal kits or pre-seasoned proteins, will be a big opportunity to reach more consumers in 2021.
- Seafood storytelling is key.
Seafood has a unique story: not only is it a lean protein full of vitamins, but it (along with a healthy diet) can help to boost immunity. Consumers are looking to make more health-conscious choices and are open to the idea that “food can be medicine”. In addition to its health benefits, seafood has an incredible story of provenance and of versatility. Communicating with consumers both “at the shelf” and online and spreading the benefits that seafood has to offer will be key.
- Suppliers & operators need to collaborate (more).
It’s always our goal to partner with our customers and help them find innovative solutions for their problems – but it’s more important now than ever before. After a tumultuous year, we’re all looking to make sure that our businesses are in the best possible position in 2021. Collaboration on things like inventory management, menu ideation/co-creation, and exchanging of ideas are things that operators and suppliers are both wanting and needing in business relationships moving forward.