Vietnam’s Mekong Delta provides perfect conditions for many fish farms producing panga, or pangasius. Fish exports from Vietnam tripled between 2002 and 2011, but the humble panga has an image problem. Its reputation as a low-cost product lacking in taste and character needed a well thought-out marketing, branding and promotion strategy. This is now being provided in the form of an Export Promotion Programme for Vietnam’s seafood sector, headed by CBI programme manager Hugo Verhoeven.
A promotion campaign to raise the profile of the panga was launched at the Brussels Seafood Expo Global last May. Alfons van Duijvenbode, an international marketing consultant specialising in promotional strategies and online marketing, is playing a key role as CBI’s external expert. With advice like lowering the fish’s water content and in close collaboration with VASEP, Vietnam’s Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, he is trying to restore confidence in the panga.
An important issue is sustainability certification, which guarantees environment-friendly production to a high CSR standard and reassures the market that Vietnamese companies take CSR seriously. Helped by the Dutch organisation IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative), all 13 panga participants at the Seafood Expo were ASC certified. The ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) is considered the world’s leading certification and labelling body for responsibly farmed seafood.
The marketing campaign focuses on turning a weakness into an asset. The payoff “your everyday fish” stresses how the panga’s neutral taste makes it suitable to combine with other ingredients in any kind of dish. Easy blending with other flavours means it tastes good in European cuisines, as well as Asian and Latin American dishes, says Van Duijvenbode. Meanwhile, thanks to a strategic partnership with Dutch importers, Anova and Seafood Connection, these companies are supplying fish to leading supermarkets in the Netherlands and importing Vietnamese seafood in dozens of other countries.”
A responsive website entitled youreverydayfish.com positions the panga as a healthy and responsible choice that’s easy to cook and good value for money. Cooking demonstrations at the Brussels Expo showed off its versatility in gastronomic creations by Dutch chef Geert van Soest. There was a lot of excitement about these dishes, with Van Soest even appearing on Vietnamese TV.
Van Duijvenbode cautions that limited available funds will have to be creatively spent. “We’re optimising low-cost options on the web and social media and getting free publicity wherever possible. It’ll take a lot of exposure to improve panga’s image among consumers. We plan to work with VASEP on business-to-consumer campaigns and involve importers and retailers, in both the Netherlands and in Germany.”> Read the full article