Australians love their Barramundi and it’s a popular fish on many a menu. However, despite catches of this iconic wild fish increasing since 2017, prices to fishers have recently hit an all-time low. A loss of market share is in part due to declining demand from the food service and hospitality industries for wild product.
In a Barramundi marketing project funded by the Fisheries R&D Corporation and implemented by QSMA and marketing and agribusiness specialists Honey and Fox Pty Ltd (in collaboration with Curtin University and the University of the Sunshine Coast), the food service and hospitality sectors will be targeted with the aim of identifying the best ways to get Australian wild Barramundi back on the plates and in the hearts and minds of consumers.
The food service and hospitality industry is complex and understanding what each segment needs from a wild caught Barramundi product is one of the challenges of the project. For example, this industry is diverse and includes fish and chip shops/takeaways, cafes/coffee shops, catering, functions and events, pubs and clubs, restaurants (low-cost, medium and premium), cruise ships/airlines and resorts.
As such, the project team will work through a five-pronged approach of ‘Explore, Talk, Identify, Support and Strategise’ to regenerate interest.
The Explore component of the project will investigate the anecdotal information available from chefs and other key influencers who make purchasing decisions about the reasons why they are not buying wild-caught Barramundi and what would be the reasons they would change their minds. Areas such as lack of development in packaging, presentation of product, inconsistent grading of product and portion sizes, lack of a brand, lack of promotion of provenance, inconsistent supply and quality, price variations, product formats (e.g. fresh or frozen) and whether these are the factors that have impacted market share will be explored.
In addition, existing consumer research will be reviewed to identify trends, preferences and attitudes towards wild-caught seafood. This will enable fishers to understand their customers and the end consumer better.
The Identify step will document the packaging, presentation and quality requirements that may improve market share via a review of packaging and formats used by competitor products. Here packaging options that match food service sector needs will be identified and the development of a draft market-driven quality standard and product handling Code of Practice will be created.
This step will also identify the issues that could be turned into marketing advantages. For example, there may be some food service sectors where wild-caught Barramundi can be promoted as a scarce and seasonal commodity with limited availability and supply. As such, when the product is available it can be promoted as being worthy of a premium price.
The Talk step of the project will see the team undertaking interviews with Queensland and Northern Territory wild Barramundi fishers about their current supply chains to find out who they sell to and how, what they know about their markets and what they see as the main barriers and drivers for market development within the food service and hospitality sectors.
In-depth interviews with the food service industry and the two biggest players in food distribution in Australia will also be undertaken. This step will identify trends, barriers and opportunities that can be further explored with fishers.
The Support step of the project will see the documentation of resources that can be used by fishers to trial and evaluate new product packaging formats, market differentiation ideas and provenance stories targeting the needs of the food service sectors and within their own supply chains. The research findings from the ‘Explore, Talk and Identify’ steps will also be developed into a benefit-cost model resource. This resource will allow fishers to assess the return on investment for developing new packaging and product formats and to understand what will be the potential payback period from making such changes.
Lastly, a strategy will be developed that will incorporate consumer education, product development and supply chain improvements, suggested market positioning and advantages over competitors. This will work to support the Australian wild Barramundi industry and individual businesses to capitalise on the opportunities and overcome the identified barriers. This will ultimately work towards creating a stable market share and giving Queensland and Northern Territory wild Barramundi fishers greater economic stability and greater customer confidence in their fish’s special product attributes.