Good current information about the marketing of aquacultural products is not always that easy to find on the net, particularly if you are seeking information about alternative species. One such article is available – sadly not updated since 1995. George Luker, Conrad Kleinholz, Andrea Robbs, and Nikita Walker report on Marketing Alternative Aquaculture Species. They focus on channel catfish (although other species are mentioned) in the Oklahoma region.
The Delaware Aquaculture Resource Center Home Page offer a report by LaDon Swann and Jean Rosscup Reipe from Purdue University entitled Making Wise Choices When Direct Marketing Your Aquaculture Products – again, this information appears to be from around 1995. Current market realities should be factored into any planning based on these reports.
Auburn University offers David J Cline’s Marketing Options for Small Aquaculture Producers – a document from around 2000. This document contains useful information for small-scale producers wishing to understand a more commercial approach to the marketing of fish. There document contains information relevant to the marketing of all aquacultural species, not only fish.
West Virginia University Extension Service offer a 2001 document which focuses more on the marketing and less on a specific fish species. Written by Leo Ray, Common Sense Marketing, like the title above, discusses the need to produce high quality products, aimed at lucrative niche markets. Ray observes the scale of aquaculture can be deceptive:
Most aquaculture is small business. There are exceptions – the catfish industry is definitely not a small industry. It is however, primarily composed of small businesses. Small business can be anything from a few thousand dollars in sales, to several million in sales. It really should not be classified by size and dollars of sales, but by structure. And most aquaculture is established around the family farm, with mom and pop running it.
We think of the catfish industry as a large, mature industry, however, approximately 40% of all catfish raised is sold in one state, the state of Texas. Think of the size the catfish industry will be when it supplies catfish to all the states like it does Texas. And that will happen someday.
Fundamental to discovering the niche, and essential to marketing is research. A White Paper on Marketing Research Needs for the North Central Region (Michigan) has been prepared by H. Christopher Peterson and Karl Fronc in 2005 for the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center. They observe:
The need to place special emphasis on marketing research derives from the strategic challenges that the aquaculture industry faces. Like producers in many commodity industries, aquaculture producers are faced with dramatic increases in global supply (most especially in China), mature demand in the developed world, and falling prices overall. Industry profitability has suffered as a result.
Rather than commodity based production, niche or otherwise, Peterson and Fronc note added value as being a key point of distinction and identify areas of future research:
The four areas of research do point to the critical four issues that research should address: what consumers want, what supply chain structure is needed to deliver what they want, what business strategies are responsive to what they want, and how can producers be positioned to actually implement the strategies that make sense.