ROCKPORT, Maine — The recently created Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has a lot on its plate trying to make sure people have lobster on theirs.
At the top of its list: hiring an executive director and kicking off a three-year promotional program with the Culinary Institute of America.
The panel, which has replaced the now-defunct Maine Lobster Promotion Council, was formed last year by state and lobster industry officials in an effort to boost worldwide demand for Maine’s signature seafood product. Chief among the objectives in forming a new lobster marketing entity was to give it more funding and to make it more responsive to Maine’s $1 billion-plus lobster industry.
Annual funding for the former promotional council topped out at $350,000. The new entity has a 2014 budget of $750,000 that will increase to $1.5 million next year and then to $2.26 million in 2016 and again in 2017. The source of the funding will be increased licensing fee surcharges from lobster fishermen, seafood wholesalers and processors.
Appointees were named to the panel last fall, and since then its members have been meeting every couple of weeks to get the ball rolling. On Feb. 28 at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, the panel gave attendees a status update on what kind of progress it has made and what else remains to be done.
The first big marketing campaign set up by the collaborative is a three-year partnership with the Culinary Institute of America, a college that trains chefs at campuses in California, New York, Texas and Singapore. The campaign, according to the collaborative’s Acting Director Marianne LaCroix, will develop digital marketing content that the institute will promote through digital and social media channels.
“That’s the big cornerstone thing the collaborative is doing this year,” LaCroix said Monday.
Chefs at the institute will develop lobster recipes and produce tutorial videos on how to prepare and serve lobster, she said. It will offer a full online course on cooking with lobster that will include what chefs should look for when buying lobster, how to handle and prepare lobster, what wines to pair it with, and background on Maine’s lobster fishery.
As with all lobster marketing campaigns, the project with the culinary institute will emphasize the high quality of lobster caught in Maine, she said. The collaborative expects to invest roughly $110,000 in the institute marketing campaign, LaCroix said.
LaCroix said the partnership with the institute is expected to get cracking next month during the institute’s invite-only Flavor Summit at its campus in Napa, Calif. Staff from the lobster collaborative are planning to attend to present an educational workshop about Maine lobster, she said.
Another major objective for collaborative is hiring an executive director. The search for candidates is expected to end next week, board member Emily Lane said at the fishermen’s forum.
“We’re looking for a superwoman or man, actually, to be the face of our organization,” Lane said.
As of the end of last month, 16 people had applied, according to collaborative officials. The goal is to hire an executive director by the end of March.
LaCroix said that the collaborative’s board and employees are committed to promoting Maine lobster as a luxury American product.
“There’s a tremendous amount going on right now,” LaCroix said of the startup efforts. “It’s really exciting. It’s been a long time coming.”