The organizers of the three-month Gulf Coast Seafood Fall Shrimp Celebration are hoping that a little face-to-crusty face time with a restaurant platter of shrimp will leave consumers a little more aware and appreciative of our grown-in-the-Gulf incredible edibles.
So far, halfway through the campaign, the response has been good.
I just got off the phone with members involved with this, said Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association. Theres not a down side. Even those customers not ordering shrimp are snapping the codes.
The codes refer to the Quick Reference codes provided by participating restaurants that can be scanned with a mobile device to access a trace map that shows the shrimps journey.
The MHRA, Gulf Seafood Trace Program and the Gulf Coast Seafood Marketing Coalition have joined to create the marketing campaign called Every Shrimp Has a Tale, which promotes the buy local, eat local concept.
The campaign, which ends Nov. 23, utilizes the Gulf Seafood Trace Programs technology that reports all the stops from the harvester, to the dock, to the processor, to the distributor and finally to the restaurant.
About 60 restaurants mostly on the Coast are participating. However, just because a restaurant may not be participating, doesnt mean it doesnt serve Gulf shrimp. Both Cashion and Bridgette Varone, executive director of the MHRA Gulf Coast Chapter, dont want the awareness campaign to have a negative side. But for sure, the project was started by Cashions application for a BP grant to counteract the negative publicity generated as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
My goal was to create a program that would tell the truth about Gulf seafood; that it was in fact safe, a fine product, a superior product, Cashion said. And, with the traceability component, it provides another level of assurance to the consumer.
In addition, the program will, hopefully, give wild Gulf shrimp a chance in the market that has been flooded with imported shrimp.
Most estimates indicate that over 90 percent of the shrimp eaten in the United States are actually farm-raised from imported sources.
However, Varone said, The whole idea of the promotion is not to show who does or who doesnt serve Gulf shrimp. Its simply a celebration of our Gulf and our fresh Gulf Seafood.
Cashion admitted that there is not enough domestic shrimp to meet market demand. So this program is necessary to promote the local economy, including the shrimpers, processors, distributors and restaurants.
He said shrimp was chosen to track as opposed to some finfish because so many restaurants wanted in on this. Shrimp has a big, broad consumer appeal and is a versatile product.
The campaign, which was set during the heart of shrimping season, is interactive, and consumers have a vital role to play by not only dining at participating restaurants, but also sharing their positive experiences and feedback through social media outlets.
Were tracking data every week. The restaurants have to input the information, Cashion said. Well find out end of November if sales have gone up. Hopefully, that will happen.