We met Craig Morris, CEO of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) in Barcelona at the Seafood Expo Global 2023, where the Association traveled to bring the message of their partnership program to all brands that have an idea and want to share it with them. "We want them to use their creativity with our fish", he tells WeAreSeafood (sister publication of WeAreAquaculture). For GAPP, it's all about awareness for Wild Alaska Pollock, and he is here to spread the word.
"Wild Alaska Pollock we like to say, it's been a fish hidden in plain sight for far too long", Craig Morris explains. "People have enjoyed the fish, they just haven't known it by name". Back in 2019, four years ago, he was brought into the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers to change that. His mission, their mission at GAPP is to build that awareness and demand globally. To achieve this, the first thing they did was to sit down with consumers and, through focus groups, talk about all the attributes of this fish.
"The fish has many attributes but what we found is that there's five that really resonate with consumers", he says. It's always wild-caught. It's always from Alaska. It has a strong nutritional proposition. It has a mild taste, which makes it versatile and easy to go into a lot of different cuisines. And then finally, what Craig Morris defines as an "unmatched" sustainability story.
"If you list out those five attributes, wild-caught, Alaska, nutrition, mild taste, and sustainability, there's really only one fish in the world of our scale that checks all five of those boxes", he notes. These five attributes are also the starting point for the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers' Partnership Program.
This initiative is effectively a grant program. As Morris explains our sister publication WeAreSeafood, GAPP tells brands: "if you would like to include Wild Alaska Pollock in your new products or place Wild Alaska Pollock in new channels, we'll help support your marketing costs, but we're going to want you to talk about the fish using those five attributes". They know that the message has a big impact on consumers, which really creates awareness, positive perception, and ultimately, demand.
To say that GAPP knows this message has a real impact on demand is not just a figure of speech. They back measurable activities, such as the influencer campaign they ran last year with PR firm Ketchum. "We just don't run a billboard that says 'Eat Wild Alaska Pollock' and not know if it works. We really want campaigns like this one with Ketchum in those six influencers that really drove sales", he explains to us.
Together with its PR partner, GAPP identified six influencers. They worked with them over the last year, and during that time they were able to track the buying behavior of those influencers' followers. When we asked Craig Morris about the result, he sums it up in one word: "Unbelievable". Those followers that saw the content bought fully 275% more Wild Alaska Pollock than they did a year prior. "So, we not only know from things like impressions and engagements that people saw it, that they liked it but it actually changed their buying behavior. To us is really impactful", he says.
Until then, many people already consumed this fish, but they were not aware of it. Now, after this campaign, they are asking for it by name. But, how does this change the situation when we talk about a wild-capture fish? "That's the unique thing about Wild Alaska Pollock", GAPP CEO explains, "We're not trying to scale up. We can't. We can only harvest that which we can harvest sustainably, and we're committed to that".
"So, it's not like we're selling any more fish today than we were a year ago. We're just selling it at a higher value". There's more demand, and that is what they are trying to create. "Not being just an anonymous whitefish but something that people seek out", Morris adds. "If they see Wild Alaska Pollock on the package, they'll pay a premium for it".
After publicizing the attributes of Wild Alaska Pollock, the next step planned by the GAPP Board is to launch a communication campaign with the story of the people behind the fish. During the B season (June through October), the Association will send some film crews to interview boat captains, deckhands, plant managers, workers in the plants, and communities in Alaska, "to really help humanize the industry". Their goal is to let people know that, when they buy Wild Alaska Pollock, those are the people who work so hard to bring this "unbelievably sustainable, nutritious resource" to tables around the world.
"We want people to see that", the CEO of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers tells WeAreSeafood, our sister publication. "It's one of those campaigns that really gives people an opportunity to know where their food comes from and that's something that I think globally is really important to people. They don't want to buy products that they don't have a connection, a personal human connection with those that raise their food", says Craig Morris. "When people see Wild Alaska Pollock in the package, they're going to want to know, 'Is it good for Alaska? Is it good for the people that harvest this resource, that process it into food products?'. That's the story we're really excited to tell".
"We certainly know that one of the pillars for our fish is the fact that it's U.S. caught in Alaska", he continues, "if consumers are seeking out U.S. caught products or products from Alaska, absolutely we're going to feature that, and be proud of it". The United States is their starting point, but their work and their goal is to make the product known globally, not in vain, most Alaska Pollock caught in the U.S. is exported worldwide.
GAPP wants to be as strategic as possible and has therefore identified the 20 markets around the world with the greatest growth potential, including Spain, where this interview was conducted. "When we started a GAPP, we started in North America, that was really the launch of us talking to consumers, launching the partnership program. Now, we're definitely pivoting internationally", concludes Craig Morris.
The Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) works to identify new markets and further develop relationships not only with consumers but also with key customers in the industry. In addition to its marketing campaigns, through its Partnership Program, GAPP makes its funding available to those who wish to introduce Wild Alaska Pollock into new formats and channels or raise its profile around the world to help the organization drive awareness and demand for products made from wild Alaska pollock.