Vinh Hoan calls for ASMI, NSC-style marketing collaboration

News   04/05/2017 - Administrator

Vinh Hoan Corporation is actively seeking collaboration with other players in the production and distribution of Vietnamese pangasius to form a structured marketing organization, akin to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) or Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).

"One way we could arrange it could be to have the ministry [of agriculture and rural development] push R&D -- from broodstock quality up to processing -- in the Premium Pangasius Fillets project," Vinh Hoan CEO Nguyen Ngo Vi Tam told Undercurrent News.

Premium Pangasius Fillets is a product range Vinh Hoan launched at a previous Brussels show, to illustrate the species can reach a peak quality. Tam suggested the government could fund the promotion of this concept via marketing.

"Or the other method we're looking at is collaboration, an alliance, and raising funds for marketing and PR."

The country's association of seafood exporters and producers (Vasep) held a panel discussion at the Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, as a response to the European market's – and Spain in particular's – perception of pangasius, which has taken a turn for the negative in 2017.

Eino Brand, managing director of Spanish importer Inlet Seafish, warned that if Vietnam did nothing to combat negative views, consumption of the farmed fish in Europe would continue to drop.

He mentioned NSC and ASMI as models the pangasius sector should look to emulate for a structured, mandatory marketing body.

“It's a common interest, and we [European importers] would be willing to support it,” he said. “But it needs to be structured, and come from the government. It amazes me that this 1.5 million metric ton, $1.8 billion industry does not have a structured marketing body.”

Tam addressed the audience to reveal she was actively looking to arrange a collaboration of sector partners – both producers and importers – and that Vinh Hoan was attempting to secure funding for it via Vasep.

A source has previously told Undercurrent News that a budget has been allocated by Vasep to begin such an effort.

“The industry has been quite non-confrontational, but we want to protect our reputations, and we want retail and distributor support to do it,” she said.

Nigel Edwards, technical director with UK processor Icelandic Seachill, agreed with the proposal and said his firm would back it. He said that the import side needed to be fed the science – which exists already – to be able to pass that on to retailers.

From this stage importers can attempt to educate consumers that pangasius is neither unhealthy nor damaging to the environment; two claims which have been made in the past, and since rubbished.

The key aim, said Esther Luiten of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, must be to avoid these claims resurfacing in the future, and in other, new, markets.

"This pattern of negative perceptions is more fundamental than just the EU market," she said. "Use this market as a pilot for how to approach marketing in your new markets, otherwise we're going to see these kinds of scares in China, in South Korea."

Certification is just one tool producers can use in improving perceptions, she said, but it is no "silver bullet".

"We need product development, value-adding, strong product PR, and supply chain collaboration as well."

However, one day on from the panel, Tam said discussions had not been as positive as they might have been; the indications from European importers during the panel had been that they want to support a collaboration, but only after Vietnam has become more organized, it seemed.

Spanish sales suffering

Inlet's Brand noted he is concerned that all of Spain may follow the Basque country example of banning pangasius from its institutions, he said during the panel.

Already the impact of Spanish broadcaster Quattro’s piece on Vietnamese farmed fish – which Undercurrent sources described as “fake news” – has had a great impact on Inlet’s sales, he said.

“Sales of pangasius were down 75% in February, 75% in March, and so far 73% in April,” he said. The graph shows his guesses for how far sales will recover in 2017 and 2018.

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Keywords: Vinh Hoang Vietnamese pangasius Premium Pangasius Fillets Pangasius Fillets