Southern oysters are an important food source with a rich cultural and culinary history. Because of this, it is not surprising that southern consumers tend to eat more oysters than those in other parts of the US. And, with wild oyster harvests diminishing, the south is experiencing a dramatic rise in oyster aquaculture farms. However, unlike most seafood products, farmed oysters cost more than wild harvested oysters. This places the marketing burden on oyster producers to differentiate their farm-raised products to justify higher prices.
To help oyster marketing efforts, several southern land grant universities have researched oyster consumers to determine key marketable oyster traits. Clemson University researchers have also completed an oyster consumer preference study, with results forthcoming. In addition to oyster consumer preferences, Clemson research also discovered two key findings about consumer perception of oyster farming: more than half of consumers (58%) did not know that most oysters are farm-raised (worldwide), and almost half (45.6%) were unsure whether farmed oysters are good or bad for the environment.
This finding represents a golden marketing opportunity for oyster farmers to educate the public on the importance of supplementing wild harvests and the environmental benefits of oyster farming. Rather than try and manage public perception after the fact, oyster producers can get in front of the news and manage a positive narrative about oyster farming. Because of the appeal to the general public, this message may be easily amplified through public-service-announcements (free) sources such as the local media, land grant universities and cooperative extension, Sea Grant, and Farm Bureau. Local and state restaurant associations and chambers of commerce may also be prime audiences, as they can communicate this message to their members.
It is also important to collaborate with other southern oyster producers to strengthen communication and marketing efforts. An excellent example of this sort of collaboration is Oyster South, whose annual symposium will be held February 3-5, 2022, in Biloxi, Mississippi. For more information on the symposium, please visit www.oystersouth.com. For more information on the findings of Clemson’s oyster consumer preference survey, please contact the author directly.
Richards, Steve. “Promoting the Importance of Southern Farm Raised Oysters.” Southern Ag Today 2(5.5). January 28, 2022. Permalink