`Jaws’ makes comeback

Shark is about to be served up in the meanest creole, curry and fajita dishes ever tasted if Fjord Pacific Marine Industries gets its way.The Richmond, b.c.-based company has launched a marketing effort to get distributors on board for Pacific Snow...

Shark is about to be served up in the meanest creole, curry and fajita dishes ever tasted if Fjord Pacific Marine Industries gets its way.

The Richmond, b.c.-based company has launched a marketing effort to get distributors on board for Pacific Snow Shark, a new product launch in the fish and seafood category.

Recently, the West Coast fishery held a series of demonstrations at Price Club outlets and Thrifty’s grocery stores to educate consumers, retailers and restaurateurs about the product.

Potential distributors were treated to boiled, broiled, barbecued, poached and grilled shark-kebabs in a program designed to change the perception of shark as a ‘poor man’s food,’ says Fjord sales manager Ian Govan.

‘The biggest challenge with any new product is to get distribution,’ Govan says. ‘But with shark, it’s going to take a lot of work because it has never been popular – people don’t think it tastes good.’

Fjord hopes to change all that by marketing Pacific Snow Shark as a premium product and building on the success of similar campaigns in Louisiana and Florida that portray shark as the ‘veal of the sea.’

Although shark has been available at fresh fish outlets and in the frozen section of supermarkets in the past, it has typically suffered from a fishy taste and smell, Govan says.

However, new technology developed on fishing boats has helped the company to improve the characteristics of the finished shark product.

The company hopes to distribute both skin-on shark steaks and skinless shark fillets.

Govan says he expects shark steaks will be comparable to halibut in price, while shark fillets will be comparable to salmon.

For now, Fjord will focus on developing the retail market for Pacific Snow Shark before pursuing the white cloth restaurant trade.

‘A good test will be to see what the rate of sales will be if the Price Club decides to list on,’ Govan says.

‘We should be able to tell from that whether the demonstrations have provided significant ammunition, or whether we’ll need further promotion or advertising.’

Fjord handles its advertising needs in-house, with assistance from outside suppliers.

Govan says he will monitor the success of Pacific Snow Shark in the market before deciding whether to support the product with paid media advertising.

The federal department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates the total fish and seafood market in Canada to be about $900 million.

Govan says although Fjord Pacific Marine Industries is hoping to market Pacific Snow Shark nationally, b.c., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are likely to be the principal markets.

Point-of-purchase demonstrations will focus on taste-testing and educating buyers and distributors on how to cook the product, Govan says.

Although the same technology for processing shark is now available to East Coast fisherman, Mario Marion, vice-president of Canadian sales and marketing at National Sea Products, says he does not expect his company will look to marketing shark in the near future.

‘In my opinion, they’ve got a long way to go before consumers are going to be comfortable eating shark,’ he says. ‘People are likely to be concerned about the health aspects of eating it.’

In fact, part of the marketing strategy will be a focus on the health benefits of eating shark.

Brochures with recipes will also include a nutritional panel showing that shark is low in fat and cholesterol and high in vitamins B and E.

However, Marion says the killing of sharks may pose a major public relations problem for Fjord.

He says efforts to market the product could be quashed by environmentalists, who are likely to equate the killing of sharks with that of whales, porpoises and dolphins.

Because Pacific Snow Shark has never been fished, Govan admits one potential problem is supply – it is not known how large the stock of shark is.

Fisheries and Oceans has authorized the use of the trade name, Pacific Snow Shark, for the six-gill mud shark which is found along the deep inlets of the b.c. coast.

Fjord Pacific Marine Industries is a major sea-food producer, processing products such as halibut, pickled herring and smoked tuna.