The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) gave its annual report on activities to industry members at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. MLMC executive director Marianne Lacroix opened the session by introducing the MLMC’s new board chair, Brian Langley, former state legislator and representative to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and owner of the Union Lobster Pot restaurant in Ellsworth. Several new members were appointed to the MLMC board late in 2019 (see sidebar).
Lacroix spoke about the MLMC’s current efforts to “premiumize” Maine lobster. The intent is to differentiate Maine lobster from other lobster in the marketplace by emphasizing its origin, sweet flavor and seasonality. The MLMC is concentrating on boosting domestic demand for Maine lobster and has diversified from its primary audience – chefs and consumers – to the food supply network, which includes distributors, restaurant chains and others.
“This year we are emphasizing promotions, partnerships and protection,” Lacroix said. To further promote Maine lobster, the MLMC has set up an advisory council of people working within the supply chain who will provide insights on the consumption of Maine lobster. A new “Buyer’s Guide to Maine Lobster” will be published soon to help food suppliers understand more about the state’s lobster. The MLMC will also expand its webinar programs on lobster and video and digital content on its web site for the food supply network.
For chefs and consumers, a new Maine Lobster Hotline is scheduled to debut in July. The one-day Hotline will feature a panel of experts who will answer any questions about the Maine lobster fishery and lobster in concert with a partnering grocery store chain. In September, Sweet Maine Lobster Butter is scheduled to be introduced to the public, highlighting different ways to use lobster.
Allyson Hoar, a public relations specialist from MLMC’s PR firm Weber Shandwick, spoke about the partnership element of this year’s planned activities. The MLMC will work with partners who can highlight Maine lobster’s special qualities and who can reach a quantity of people. Such partners will include food service companies, wholesale food distributors and retail or grocery chains.
The MLMC will devote a larger portion of its budget this year to protecting the Maine lobster brand, Lacroix said. “We want to prepare for what might be coming, whether it’s coronavirus, tariffs or lower landings,” she said. A new video on the sustainability of the lobster fishery was released during the Forum featuring lobsterman, Sonny Beal of Beals Island, and DMR senior lobster biologist Kathleen Reardon.
The MLMC has been aggressively monitoring media coverage and content on social media sites regarding the Maine lobster industry and right whales. “Most of the coverage is local, not national,” she said. To protect Maine lobster’s brand reputation, the MLMC has created a dedicated web page on the fishery and right whales , produced two videos on the Maine lobster fishery, proactively engaged with media in all forms, and produced social media stories to use on Facebook and other sites.
MLMC plans to host a Call to Action web tool to help generate letters to NOAA and others involved in the whale issue. The MLMC will generate op-ed pieces to address misleading claims and is working to place these pieces in national publications and outlets read by policy makers to emphasize Maine’s proactive stance to protect whales.
“We plan to be flexible to react to conditions as they change throughout the year,” Lacroix said.
MLMC Board of Directors 2020
Bruce Fernald, Islesford
Sonny Beal, Beals Island
Katie Werner, Cape Elizabeth
Dustin Delano, Friendship
Ben Conniff, Luke’s Lobster
Tom Adams, Maine Coast
Annie Tselikis, Maine Lobster Dealers Association
Chair, Brian Langley, Union River Lobster Pot restaurant
Maile Buker, Hannaford Supermarkets
Pat Keliher, Commissioner, Dept. of Marine Resources
Jeff Bennett, Maine International Trade Center