When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK one of the most immediate effects was the collapse of the fisheries markets. A high percentage of finfish and approximately 80% of the UK caught shellfish is routinely exported to a variety of markets, mostly in Europe and the Far East. These export markets disappeared virtually overnight. Of the remainder of the UK catch that is consumed here much of it goes into the food service industry, which was closed, and it seems it will remain so for the foreseeable future. A relatively small amount of finfish and even less shellfish ends up in retail and is sold to the public, but even this market has suffered as major retailers closed their wet fish counters to concentrate on a smaller core range with a longer shelf-life.
This resulted in the market for finfish condensing massively with prices crashing, and the shellfish market disappeared completely. Fishing vessels tied up, processors and retailers reduced their output, and businesses were left with no income. Even with the best-case scenario of the outbreak being contained and the country gradually returning to normal, it was unlikely the seafood industry will be able to return to previous operating levels.
With plenty of fish in the sea, KEIFCA realised that there was a market for the smaller, more vulnerable boats to be fishing and supplying into local fishmongers and direct to the public. We were asked to help KEIFCA create this new supply chain by creating a community within the community. We quickly realised that we needed a solid brand to pull the project together, a call to arms with a long lasting message. Think Fresh, Shop Smart, Fish Local was born.
The idea was to use web-based and social media systems to allow connections to be made between suppliers of seafood and consumers. This would allow suppliers to have access to markets which have not existed before and some of the fish supply chain to remain functional. It also meant that high quality fresh fish was being delivered to the customer in a new and more cost effective market.
Understanding that there would be new consumers to the market, we used the Fishlocal.org site as an information hub, delivering barrier-dropping, simple and approachable advice on fish buying and cooking always looking for trustworthy, expert delivery. This was backed up by developing an online community using tried and test platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Fish Local was developed to serve the community but also to provide support to the fish supply industry by providing a locally focused, long-term market place while upskilling and supporting the vulnerable businesses.
Band was instrumental from the ground up in the development of the project, not only in branding and designing Fish Local but also with its strategy and development. KEIFCA was an inspirational team with an unrivaled passion for the marine community and in-depth knowledge of their region and its fisheries made them an incredible force to work besides. Working at pace (and very long hours), we brought Fish Local from inception to market in just 17 days. Quickly gaining traction through a local PR campaign, multiple radio interviews as well as local news features on both ITV Meridian and BBC Kent.
Renowned restaurateur and chef Mitch Tonks, an ambassador to the fishing industry came on board. We worked on the principle that if you can cook a nugget, you can cook a fish. Tonks with a passion for seafood and a keep-it-simple approach to fish cookery was the perfect fit to put his arm around the new fish-eater with back to basics advice.
"When I phoned Band at 8 am on a Saturday morning to find a way of linking fishermen who have fish they could not sell, with people that were shopping at supermarkets with empty shelves they dropped everything and got to work solving the problem. Seventeen days later they had a complete campaign ready to go, with a website, a community Facebook page, industry information sheets, posters, leaflets, stickers as well as a coordinated PR launch across regional BBC, ITV, radio, and newspapers.
Not only had Band achieved what they had set out to do and create a dynamic and interactive link between the fishing industry and their customers, but they had done it in using engaging and imaginative design. I would employ Band again in a heartbeat.."
Will Wright - Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority
With social media traction from the outset, a strong brand identity and a solid strategy for growth, Band and KEIFCA quickly put Fish Local on a platform to create a long-lasting legacy for the local fishing industry with the project gaining a large following and industry support.