BBRSDA plans to develop Bristol Bay sockeye brand

Apr 12, 2016

Coming soon, although maybe not to a grocery store near you quite yet, a Bristol Bay salmon brand.

Credit Mike Mason/KDLG

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has worked on sustainability and fish quality for the past decade, channeling one percent contributions from every drifter into a fund for protecting and improving the fishery. Now, the board is ramping up its focus on marketing, with a Bristol Bay brand for the region’s wild sockeye. 

Executive Director Becky Martello said the effort is not unlike the Copper River brand, developed in part by the Prince William Sound RSDA, that nets fishermen there a premium for their catch.

“We’re looking to really capitalize on consumer preference for premium, wild Alaskan salmon and associate that, the health and the flavor that come from Bristol Bay sockeye, and the qualities of wild, abundant, year round, premium sockeye and deliver that,” Martello said. "We’re really working with every step of the supply chain to ensure quality. And we really need to get that across to the consumers.”

BBRSDA is working with an Anchorage-based marketing firm called Rising Tide to create the new brand. Martello said that could include everything from a tag line and a logo, to advertising efforts. The exact plan will develop this spring, in a collaborative process, with the first fish being sold this summer.

“We’ve never done anything like this in the past,” she said. “I think we’re going to come up with a really good brand identity for Bristol Bay and one that really captures the story of our fishermen in Bristol Bay.”

The plan is to start small, with one target market, and grow from there.

“We’ll start with delivering fresh sockeye salmon into this target market, and use that period of time to develop brand loyalty and develop our messaging and really get us out in front on the consumer, both in retail markets and with local chefs and restaurants, and then follow that up with a frozen campaign,” she said. “And really educate consumers that not only can they have delicious sockeye salmon in the fresh season, that it’s also available year round. Because of the size of our run, that’s a possibility that Bristol Bay can offer that really no one else can.”

This could be the next step in increasing the visibility of Bristol Bay salmon, and maybe increasing demand in a way that boosts prices. Martello said the effort builds on past marketing endeavors by BBRSDA – including the work the association has done with chefs.

“We hope to cultivate more relationships with chefs, new ones, and then building stronger relationships with the chefs we’ve already worked with in the past,” Martello said.

She said the organization is hoping that seeing Bristol Bay salmon on more menus will drive consumers to more grocery store purchases.

Eventually, the association wants to use what works in the first target market and expand it to other parts of the country.

“Launching a nationwide campaign right off the bat is just very, very costly,” she said. “And so we really want to do this in a targeted and measurable way. And so when we do see successes and opportunities to change or alter our course in this test market, then we can take advantage of the scale, and that size, and be able to do that.”

Martello said the project will focus on the highest quality fish that comes out the bay, to capitalize on quality work that has been done over the past several years to develop a premium brand that people will trust. As a result, the processors selling fish for the first demo round this summer will be those that can meet that standard.

“Our goal is to bring all processors into the fold. It’ll be a program there will be certain qualifications that the fish have to meet,” she said. “Of course we want the best quality fish going into this project.”