Canned Salmon: A New Face on an Old Product

Photo: Clark Fair via kdlg.org.
Photo: Clark Fair via kdlg.org.

Despite the new ways of marketing and selling salmon, canned fish remains a major product in Bristol Bay.

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In 2013, 38 percent of the salmon coming out of the bay was put into cans. But they aren’t flying off the shelves. L.A. marketing professional Craig Caryl is working with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to change that.

“I think that canned salmon needs to be positioned with blueberries, literally, as a superfood,” Caryl said.

He’s not the only one who wants to see a resurgence in canned salmon.

“Brings tears to my eyes because it’s such a, it’s an old business but it’s such a staple business,” said Eric Weiss, who sells tin to canneries throughout Alaska, including some in Naknek. “And people need to eat more canned salmon.”

Weiss works for Crown Cork N Seal, which has worked on developing new, smaller, cans that he thinks are more appealing to consumers.

“We’ve actually introduced a new smaller size to the industry,” Weiss said. “It’s about the size of, the height of a quarter pound can and then the diameter of a half pound can.”

But Weiss says there are challenges in getting that new can sold – from inefficiencies for processors in filling more smaller cans, to convincing stores to sell them.

Caryl is trying to increase demand. His target audience? Millenial women, particularly pregnant women and new moms who might be interested in the health benefits of a can of fish, and also appreciate the sustainability of Alaska’s fisheries.

Caryl’s wife is an integral part of that effort.

“My wife has been developing these amazing salmon burgers, with like a caper lemon sauce that she mixes up. And the big test for us is, will our six year old son eat it? My six year old is pretty picky and he really digs these salmon burgers.”

Caryl hopes that a website with 30 or so recipes tested by his wife will hit home with the mommy bloggers who can spur purchases and eventually help salmon capture a little of the tuna market.

“It’s changing people’s perception about them and driving the consumer into the shop and forcing the shop to say ‘hey, you know, we gotta move this off the bottom shelf and put this four feet high so people can see it.'”