So You Like To Eat Fish….?

This is not really a story about marketing. However it is something that you might want to know and to think about if you like food.

We eat quite a bit of fish in our household. I normally buy fish at a little hole in the wall fish shop in Kiama. The shop is tiny. It is perched out at the end of the harbour on its own, and away from the rest of the town. Its run by Steve and Ruth, and its been in Steve’s family for a couple of generations apparently.

Because I go to the store regularly, I have gotten to know a little bit about the people, as you do when you see people regularly. One reason that I go to this particular fish shop is that almost all of the fish that they sell is caught locally. A few species of fish that are popular, like salmon, come in from Tasmania but almost everything else is caught locally and is super fresh.

Kiama Harbour

The other day I asked Steve whether the fish shop in Shell Harbour represented competition for him. This shop is in the big shopping complex there and has a lot of foot traffic and is always busy. Steve said that they probably were competition but that the people who came to his shop came for a different reason. The fish were different.

He gave me an example: the gemfish. The gemfish that Steve sells are caught on a line, by the local fisherman. The fish that are sold in the other shop are caught by the big industrial trawlers. I knew that when a fish is caught by a trawler it is caught in a big net that is dragged across the bottom of the ocean. What I didn’t realize is that when that takes place, the fish are caught up in the net for hours and hours, possibly a whole day, before the net is hauled up to the surface. While the fish are in the net they are being tumbled around like the clothes in a tumble drier. They bump into each other, bruise each other, possible even drown because they are no longer traveling in the right direction for their gills to work properly.

Steve brought out a gemfish and showed me the way that he could determine whether the fish was healthy. He showed me the beautiful colours of the scales and the sharpness of the eyes. He told me that when you get a trawled gemfish the scales are dull and so are the eyes. And the flesh is no longer firm.

It was a really fascinating story told by someone who clearly has passion for what they do and an intimate knowledge of his field. I suggested to Steve that he should shoot a video and put it up on YouTube – not to market himself or the shop, but just to inform people about fish. He is thinking about it.

Imagine though: How much more would we value the provenance of our food if we knew the processes by which they come from the source to the table?

I asked Steve and Ruth whether they sold much fish into the restaurant trade. My thought was, “surely chefs must value this sort of provenance?”. Steve told me that what typically happens with restaurants is that chefs send their staff out to pick up supplies and the staff are told to source very specific pieces of produce – 2 dozen 200 gram pieces of Dory – or whatever it may be. So the specifications by weight or size become the drivers for the restaurant rather than the quality!

Think about it next time you read that beautifully crafted copy on the menu of the restaurant that you are in!

But think too, about the possibilities that exist if you could market honesty and integrity. How valuable would Steve and Ruth’s product be if people understood the difference? They don’t charge any extra for what they sell, because they are hard-working honest-as-the-day-is-long people.

Their UVP is almost unique in the world we live in. Integrity.

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