With Delaware’s first year of commercial aquaculture in the books, a marketing campaign supporting the program was unveiled Jan.11 at Bluecoast Seafood and Raw Bar in Rehoboth.
Aiming to establish an umbrella brand for all Inland Bays oysters, the campaign slogan is, “Inland Bays Oysters….A Southern Delaware Delicacy.”
Ed Lewandowski, University of Delaware coastal communities development specialist, said the launch was years in the making. He said the fledgling program is looking to develop a strong market-share for Inland Bays oysters to create brand equity for oyster producers to boost affinity among consumers.
“The new brand promises that Inland Bays oysters will provide consumers with a product that uniquely captures the flavor of Delaware’s Inland Bays,” he said to a few dozen people attending the launch.
Dr. Kent Messer, from the University of Delaware’s Center for Experimental & Applied Economics, offered results from a consumer demand study. He said shellfish aquaculture is interesting because it’s one of the few businesses that has a positive effect on the environment as more oysters are introduced into the system.
Messer said the study showed 28 percent of locals, interviewed at the DMV, would be willing to pay more for oysters with the Inland Bays logo, while 13 percent of tourists, as reported at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal, would pay more for local oysters.
Messer said the environmental benefits of oysters are undeniable, but he said marketing the oysters should focus not on the water where they are produced, but on the quality of the oyster.
Messer said consumers valued the smell of the oysters the most, followed by saltiness, meat size and meat color. He said infrequent and first-time consumers prefer wild-caught oysters, while frequent consumers prefer aquaculture oysters.
Lewandowski said a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant and a NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Grant helped pave the way for market research and future marketing campaigns.
Shellfish farmer Chris Redefer, who calls his oysters Dewey Beach Selects, is the first person to get Inland Bays oysters on the local market. He credited Sea Grant, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and the Center for the Inland Bays for doing a lot of the advance leg work in marketing his oysters. He said when his oysters were ready for market in September, there were commercial entities waiting to try them.
Redefer said warm weather and favorable growing conditions in the Inland Bays led to a successful season. He said he’s looking forward to 2019.