Ocean Brands keeps its sustainable message straightforward

The company is utilizing recognition consumers already have for MSC certification.

ocean-tunaOcean Brands’ Skipjack Tuna is now 100% Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable, building on value it has been seeing from other SKUs that are already certified.

MSC designation means a fish is sustainably wild caught and fully verified to come from a certified fishery.

Certification means a products meet all three key measurements of sustainability: healthy stock status, sustainable habitat and by-catch impact, and successful fishery management, says Jackie Mendoza, senior brand manager at Ocean Brands.

Ocean's Shelf BladeThe company, which is the leading supplier of canned seafood in Canada under the Ocean’s, Gold Seal and Millionnaires brands, is running a shelf blade program by Neptune Retail Solutions in select Loblaws, Metro and Save On Foods grocery banners to communicate the certification.

The messaging is straightforward: “Any better and we’d be certified. Oh wait, we are.”

On pack, meanwhile, Ocean has intentionally kept the design simple, Mendoza says, which it is able to do because of how much value consumers already place in the certification.

“Out of all the certification symbols, MSC has the highest recognition amongst consumers,” Mendoza says, adding that recognition of the ecolabel in Canada has grown from 25% in 2018 to 32% in 2020, with recognition even higher at 51% for consumers 18 to 34. “By clearly highlighting the MSC blue fish label on our packaging, we are making it easy for consumers to recognize and choose tuna that is certified sustainable.”

All of the company’s value-added Skipjack products – SnacKits, salads, tuna in oil, flavoured tuna – were already MSC certified, but Ocean’s regular products, including Skipjack in water, were not yet fully MSC certified.

Mendoza says it began sourcing MSC-certified Skipjack in water in late 2021, but still had some existing non-MSC certified tuna remaining on store shelves. Now that the back stock is cleared out, the company can confidently talk about its credentials.

According to Ian Ricketts, president of Ocean Brands, which also holds a B Corp certification, it’s a slow process to change how the worlds fisheries get managed and how consumers shop in a category like tinned fish. “This can’t be reduced to a single marketing campaign,” Ricketts notes. “In fact, it’s about a long arc of change that’s required from all of us if we want a healthy planet.”

Ricketts tells strategy Skipjack tuna is its top volume driver, and the most purchased tuna in Canada, and has seen demand grow over the pandemic as people turned to staple pantry items like canned tuna. “Canned tuna is a popular comfort food and it really had huge growth during the height of the pandemic,” he notes. “The levels sold today are not as quite as high as levels in 2020 but they are still growing well beyond 2019 pre-pandemic levels.”

Following the addition of MSC certified Skipjack Tuna, Ocean Brands says it now has the widest range of MSC certified products in Canada’s shelf stable seafood category, 70% of its entire product portfolio.