In the marketplace, one-year-old surf clams are known as "New England Butter Clams" - a relatively new product on the market.
Farming New England Butter Clams means they can be harvested at a size in which they are tender, buttery and sweet - as well as easy and versatile to prepare. This results in an entirely different product than mature surf clams harvested from wild fisheries.
Background: Surf Clam Marketing Toolkit
Surf clam propagation has the potential to be a component of the Massachusetts shellfish aquaculture industry. Surf clam culture does already occur on Cape Cod and in MA but the supply is limited. Restaurant chefs are interested in petite surf clams, (also known as butter clams) but are reluctant to commit to putting them on menus until they know there is a steady supply.
To overcome this challenge, both supply and market need to increase at the same time. To help the shellfish aquaculture industry work towards this goal, the partners on this project hired the firm Zapalac Advisors to create a Marketing Plan for New England Butter clams. The hope is that the talking points and suggestions for activities within this plan can assist growers with marketing their petite surf clams. The full plan may be downloaded from the abridged "Toolkit" below.
New England: Ties the name to the product provenance. Generally speaking, “New England” has a positive connotation for seafood -- in particular, groundfish and lobster. Over the last few decades, the resurgence of high quality oyster production has benefited from and reinforced the New England brand. It is acknowledged that restaurants may shorten the product name to “butter clams,” and that is okay. The inclusion of the words “New England” will be more important to restaurants that emphasize product locality. Celebrating where these clams come from -- including the New England towns, growers and waters -- is important to establish appreciation for context and sourcing.
Butter Clams: Speaks to the natural flavor of the clam, implying a full-bodied and sweet richness, slightly salty without being overly heady or fishy.
At the onset, some possible uses for New England Butter Clams include a) as a raw bar item, especially contrasted with other types of clams b) in ceviche, steamed and other appetizer modes c) in recipes such as paellas, bouillabaisse, and risotto with other premium New England shellfish and d) as a specialty pasta clam.
- TASTE & VERSATILITY: Attractive buttery taste with ample salinity in an easy to handle size of clam. Versatile for preparation: tastes great raw and works well steamed or sautéed. Durable for transport, easy to shuck, with an 7-10 day shelf life under proper conditions.
- SUSTAINABILITY: A new production method that provides polyculture benefits to bays and estuaries while allowing the communities who grow them to take one step forward in economic diversification. Opportunity for buyers to satisfy Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals.
- SOURCING & TRACEABILITY: New England branded product, where healthy waters produce a healthy product. Grown by New England farmers. Clear chain of custody.
- FAVORABLE PRICE POINT: Attractive price point from grower, restaurant, and consumer standpoints. Pricing runs roughly half of boutique oysters throughout the supply chain.
- A STORY OF SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE INNOVATION: A variety of actors are working in innovative ways to build a new supply. There are many opportunities for positive storytelling—about product, place and people—and ways to highlight shellfish aquaculture innovation.
- MARKET ENTRY STRATEGY: Opportunity to build upon strong marketing and supply chain relationships established for oysters.
From an end consumer standpoint, who are the probable early adopters of New Butter Clams? Who should you be trying to communicate to -- and reflect in your messaging? Findings from interviews and research on seafood consumption suggest four early adopters types to consider as you develop your marketing messages, as well as a fifth broader market category to keep in mind as supply grows. The groups described are not mutually exclusive. Continuing to refine understanding of end consumers is critical. Use surveys and interviews to continue engaging consumers who have tried New England Butter Clams. Also engage consumers via various social media channels.
1) Lifestyle / experience consumers
- Love the place associations of seafood, including dining at farms & raw bars, clams shacks and
lobster shacks. Familiar with traditional ways of serving shellfish in New England.
- High volume eaters (young, male - though not exclusively).
- Beverage pairings interest: shellfish & beer--and also wine and spirits
- Loyal to/champions for brands they want to be like; purchasers of swag/gear
- Prepare seafood at home, including product sourced through e-commerce or direct retail
2) Luxury product / cuisine as art consumers
- Support higher end restaurants / fine dining experience
- Willing to pay for freshness, exclusivity and presentation. May consume few pieces, but at a higher
- Interested in terroir and merroir concepts
- Beverage pairings: shellfish and wine--and also beer and spirits
- Revere and follow chefs
- Prepare seafood at home; use e-commerce to source specialty or hard to source items
3) Sustainability focused / food system tech & innovation consumers
- Willing to pay for products that articulate values around health and sustainability
- Interested in sourcing information on menus and restaurant websites
- Loyal to restaurants, brands and food purveyors they trust to deliver fresh, traceable products
- Buys product via community supported agriculture (CSA) and/or community supported fisheries (CSF)
- Generally savvy about e-commerce technology and social media; share information willingly
4) Aficionados of ethnic cuisine (in the United States)
- Interested in culinary traditions from places with access to shellfish. May be part of their own heritage or “exotic” cuisine they’ve found they enjoy through restaurant experiences and travel. A non-exhaustive list of cuisine includes: Mediterranean, Southeast Asian, Coastal Latin American, European Atlantic
- May be open to consuming fresh New England Butter Clams in place of foreign seafood products
As supply grows:
5) General (New England) seafood consumers
- Encompasses the demand for New England seafood outside of New England, as well as demand for New England seafood among visitors to New England
- General trust in the New England brand, though operating with limited product / geographic knowledge
- Less sensitive to sourcing concerns
- Often more price conscious
In support of growers promoting New England Butter Clams, a table with Recommended Contact List of dealers and chefs/restaurants is included below. Those individuals who have already received samples of clams (in 2017) are indicated with “S” and those who were interviewed as a part of this plan are indicated with “I.” Those who have requested samples are indicated with “R.”
In outreach you will need to expand upon the critical questions the collateral materials we are sharing here to address using your own knowledge as a grower.
- If you do not already have a relationship with dealers or chefs/restaurants listed, we recommend you start by reviewing their website and social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to brush up on the values and themes that matter to them. Further, these will often expose relationships with others in the industry. If you see someone on their social media with whom you have a strong relationship, it may be beneficial to engage that person as an intermediary--or to mention the connection when reaching out.
- Follow them on social media and when relevant, comment on their posts. You might also choose to invite them to follow you.
- If it’s possible to meet them in person, do so - let them know you’d like to schedule a time to come by with product samples. Offer to come by at a convenient time for staff tastings and Q&A. If it happens that you’ll be dining in their restaurant and would like to say a quick hello, let them know.
- If it isn’t possible to visit in person, outreach by phone or email is better than no outreach. We encourage you to share a bit about your background and tell them how you learned about them (even if it’s from this report). Orient them to the location of your grant/town. Tell them why have chosen to grow New England Butter Clams. This last point is likely to be particularly compelling to the caliber of dealers and chefs included in the list. Your individual story matters!
- Context: Invite them to come visit your grant. Tell them about your grant location and explain how you’ve been able to optimize for growing clams.
- Chefs are interested in a high quality product that is available on a predictable basis. Provide clear details about expected product availability.
- Answer any follow up questions in a timely manner. Review the FAQs (Appendix A) to be aware of anticipated questions.
Building on Existing Relationships
Once you have established a relationship - or for those dealers and chefs/distributors with whom you may already have a relationship:
- Be prepared that you will still need to articulate the value proposition / selling points of your New
England Butter Clams.
- Offer to work with chefs to help develop an amuse bouche, a dinner series and/or special menus -
and volunteer to participate so that their customers can engage you directly.
- Identify other opportunities to collaborate: special events, panels, catering, etc.
- Promote any collaboration (visits, special dinners, etc.) on your social media and tag people as is
- Actively and regularly ask for feedback on the product - handling, preparation, response from end
Storytelling via social media and website content development by growers can start as soon as a grower is ready to share aspects of the experience of growing New England Butter Clams. There is no starting threshold.
The following are provided as examples of how you might communicate the value proposition of New England Butter Clams while conveying the broad takeaway/tagline for the product:
New England Butter Clams: Great for your table. Great for our towns.
Three global ideas around demonstrating relationships:
- Associate the clams on consumers’ dining tables with the waters of the New England towns in whichyour clams are grown. This means explaining your grants and what makes the ecology and culture (growing culture, town culture) of your locations special. For each grower, this will be an individual and personal explanation.
- Communicate relationships in the supply chain: specifically between growers and chefs, but also include dealers who play an active role is supporting New England shellfish growers. Show the human aspects of the supply chain - who is involved and what they do. Include end consumers! In this way, the relationship between “your” and “our” in the tagline/takeaway is positively connected.
- Show clams on a variety of dining tables with people gathered around them, enjoying the clams and each other. Tie these clams to the idea of community -- sharing a meal with others. Show a variety of tables (from fine dining to picnic style), speaking to versatility of these clams for restaurant preparation, and in the future, for home consumption as well.
Guidelines for recommended social media and media
Instagram: Focused on media content (visuals), making it a strong platform for visual storytelling about food and place; built in ad capability with target audience options.
- Image sizes: 1080x1080 (1:1 ratio) or 1080x1350 (4:5); up to 10 images in a single post - tell a story!
- Video: 3-60 sec.
- Characters: 125-300 recommended; 2,200 max; 30 hashtag limit.
- Instagram stories: meant to be ephemeral; 1080x1920px (9:16 ratio), max 10 sec video. Use Canva forcomposition.
- Actively incorporate handles (@) and hashtags (#)
- Reposting within Instagram can be very effective.Facebook: Offers a high degree of flexibility on content (text, photos, images, comments/replies) and interaction, access to a broad audience and strong analytics, but also a high level of distraction to users,
Scalable Talking Points/Messaging Content Examples, continued
especially give page layout.
- Images sizes: 1,200x630 pixels, optimal.
- Video: 360-view video allowed. A 10-20 sec video can be very effective! Max length is 120 minutes.
- Facebook stories: meant to be ephemeral; 1080x1920px (9:16 ratio), max 10 sec video. Use Canva forcomposition.
- Tag when relevant, incorporate hashtags (#) and usernames (@)
- Recommended post length: 40-280 characters.
- Facebook Live: live streaming from the Facebook app; real-time commenting.Twitter: Designed to be conversational (retweets, multilevel replies). Built in ad capability with target audience options. Generally speaking, Twitter is not as popular a medium for food-related postings, but images posted to it can stand out against what is still predominately a text-based platform.
- Images: minimum to appear expanded 440x220 pixels (a 2:1 ratio)
- Can tweet up to 4 images at one time
- Video: 2min 20 sec or less
- Characters: 70-100 recommended; 280 max.
- Incorporate hashtags (#) but use sparingly (2 max).
- Concerning reposts to instagram and vice versa: be aware that handles may not be the same acrossplatforms.
While it is possible to cross-post from one social media platform to another, effective posting requires editing for caption length, image preservation and formatting, handles, vocabulary and tone. You may want to manage social media posts using applications such as Hootsuite. All of the above social media applications include built in ad capabilities with target audience options, too.
- Allows for immersive and well curated storytelling, with 3 to 5 minutes providing sufficient time for full product introduction or focused exploration of topics. Film clips/snippets (10 sec to 1 minute) derived from filming can also be used across social media platforms.
- Post film/videos to YouTube or Vimeo and share links to your website and social media.
- At this length of film, professional production is recommended. It can be expected to cost in therange of $3,000 to $7,000 and have a shelf life of three to five years. (See page 18 for recommended vendors and page 29 for example vignettes.)
Your Website: Offers the most flexible on content detail, format and delivery, but requires that you drive traffic (customers / followers) to your actual site. Also requires independent site construction and maintenance.
- Can be the strongest communicator of your brand, in the respect you have near full control overformat and, while visitors are on your website, they are receiving your content alone, as opposed to
engaging your content between other posts.
- Use your website for core content as well as in-depth descriptions, articles or blog formats.
- Include links to your website in social media posts.
- Deploy search engine optimization (SEO) to help drive traffic through your site.
- Website builders such as Squarespace and Wix offer easy to use templates (no coding required)and comprehensive analytics. Squarespace website subscriptions range in cost from $12 to $40 per month depending upon complexity and whether a transaction/online store component is included.
Social media offers a cost effective way to engage not only end consumers, but
also fellow actors across
the supply chain. The visual storytelling that social media allows is well-suited to marketing of food products and experiences - in part because it cannot replace the real world sensory experience, but can effectively entice consumers to try new things.
The chance to obtain direct feedback on social media gives you a way to experiment with messaging and see firsthand what motivates consumers, while also providing helpful analytics through which you can
Cottage City Oysters Instagram: Example of an effective re-post that includes product, co-branding while revealing chef-grower relationships.
refine your understanding
of potential market size, geography, conversion rates, amplification and brand awareness. It’s also a way to meet people where they are. And there are a lot of seafood-loving people on social media! (#seafoodlover = 609K posts on Instagram and Chef Jamie Oliver has 7.3 million followers, etc.)
Storytelling about New England Butter Clams will involve a variety of shellfish farmers, as well as Wellfleet SPAT, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension/Woods Hole Sea Grant in a collaborative and disaggregated approach. This means starting multiple stories and conversations about New England Butter Clams, rather than executing firmly controlled messaging. As such, recommendations are intended to guide and inspire this variety of actors as they individually develop their stories around New England Butter Clams. They are also intended to help involve dealers and chefs/restaurants, as well as food writers and other members of food media,
by engaging these actors in conversations over social media in a way that reflects their real world relationships.
Recommendations for enriching your social media:
- SELECT IMAGES CAREFULLY. Select images carefully, as the quality of your images reflects the quality of your product. Images do not have to be perfect, but they do need to be able to compete. Often a small amount of photo editing or cropping (even just using the app on your phone) can create the right tone and focus for the message.
- HUMANIZE YOUR MESSAGE. Whenever possible, include people in your imagery. If you intend to explain something about gear, show human hands holding the gear. People look longer and engage more deeply with images that show some element of human life and presence - even if the purpose of the image is to show a beautiful landscape or to explain something technical.
Social Media Recommendations, continued
- EXPLAIN PROCESS. Use images to explain process and activity. People are curious about the steps required in aquaculture. By teaching them, you enroll them in your success.
- REVEAL RELATIONSHIPS. Demonstrate your relationship to others in the supply chain. Images that show relationships between growers and chefs will be particularly valuable, because they reveal and reinforce that this is a collaborative effort. If they show you having fun along the way, even better!
- TELL A STORY. Just a few words can capture a reader’s imagination and prime them for deeper engagement. This is especially true when accompanied by a compelling image.
- USE VIDEO. Even a few seconds of film can go a long way, particularly to explain process. Video is also useful for conveying opinion or commentary on the experience of a food or a place. (Think Anthony Bordain.) Video does not need to be professional so long as it is well-edited.
- BE RELATABLE. Reveal
your humanity! This
means showing your
sleepy face on a cold winter morning as you drink your coffee and prepare to work your grant. It means showing your family involved in the tending effort, if that is your situation. It also means being aware of what your followers romanticize about shellfish aquaculture -- time out on the water when the weather is perfect -- and celebrating those moments with gratitude.
- BUILD AND RESPOND TO ENGAGEMENT. The purpose of social media is to advance engagement between people separated by space. At the start of a campaign, posting at least once a day for
two weeks can help build momentum, but how frequently you post is up to you. Respond to your followers and their comments, and encourage them to meet you and your clams in the real world - at your farm, at restaurants, at events.
- USE HASHTAGS:
- The most important hashtag to use across platforms is: #Newenglandbutterclams
- Tag the product tagline subsets #greatforyourtable and #greatforourtowns
- Include the hashtag for your town: #Wellfleet or #Cotuit, etc. as well as #CapeCod, as appropriate
- integrate: #surfclam, #aquaculture and #clamfarmer #happyasabutterclam #seafoodlover
- Look for ways to reference particular events, such as #wellfleetoysterfest
- For chefs/restaurants, use their specific handle: @ESKDBoston (Eastern Standard), @Row34, etc.
- Tag your favorite preparation: #rawbar, #epicrawbar, #seafoodtower, #butterclamlinguine, etc.
- As appropriate, include thematic tags as a way of reaching your consumer groups: #clams,
#seafoodlover #sustainablefarming, #newengland, #newenglandlife, #seafoodie, #eatlocal #eatingwiththeecosystem, #blueeconomy, #seafoodtech
Marine Bulletin: Growing Methods for Petite Atlantic Surf Clams
Fisheries and Aquaculture Specialist
Woods Hole Sea Grant and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension
P.O. Box 367
Barnstable, MA 02630