Recap of Worldwide Tuna Conference In Vigo

Created on Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The 2017 Worldwide Tuna Conference was held September 11-12 in Vigo, Spain. The conference is a biannual gathering of business leaders from the tuna industry to discuss the most pressing issues facing global tuna markets. Speakers at the conference included representatives from Thai Union, Tri Marine, Albacora, Groupo Calvo, Bolton Alimentari, Conservas Garavilla, and many other major companies in the tuna industry.

Project director Kathleen Mullen-Ley represented FishWise at the conference. Kathleen leads FishWise’s work with retailers to improve the environmental sustainability of their shelf-stable tuna products. Her main goals for the conference were to learn about the conditions and pressures in the European tuna supply chains market that have led to successful retailer sustainable tuna programs in the EU, and to network with tuna industry veterans.

This being an industry conference, a hot topic of discussion was price. Historically, retailers marked down the prices of canned tuna products as a way to draw customers into the store to buy other, more expensive products. This has had its intended effect of creating the expectation from consumers that canned tuna is cheap. In reality, there are growing costs associated with producing canned tuna, including raw material costs, labor, transportation, processing, etc.

In order to address this problem, Luciano Pirovano from Bolton Alimentari (an Italian canned tuna manufacturer) recommended that tuna companies put more effort into creating more value. Tools to increase value include better point of sale marketing materials (e.g. a more attractive shelf, in-store events), product innovation (e.g. new flavors or formats), communication (e.g. calling attention to tuna’s health benefits), and sustainability (e.g. establishing time-bound sustainability commitments, adding sustainability information to packaging and marketing materials). To summarize his recommendations, he gave with three words to remember: inspiration, innovation, and reputation.

Other speakers at the conference stressed the importance of educating consumers so they understand that tuna is a limited natural resource.

Also relevant to FishWise’s work with retailers in the U.S. were panel presentations about canned tuna market trends in Europe. In a panel titled, “How to compete in the worldwide market for canned tuna: Europe,” Alberto Encinas from Grupo Calvo (a Spainish canned tuna manufacturer) pointed to some interesting trends in Europe that are also present in the U.S., including an aging population, market concentration in retail (i.e. mergers and acquisitions), an increase in ‘white brands’ (i.e. private label brands), and an increasing focus from consumers on wellness and sustainability.

Mariano Rodriguez from Carrefour, a massive EU retailer with ~12,000 stores in 30 countries, stressed that consumers are paying more attention to products’ origins, and that claims like ‘locally sourced’ and ‘sustainably caught’ must be backed with traceability information.

Another interesting topic of discussion was what to do about at-sea transshipment. Interestingly, the general consensus among companies in the room was that the practice of at-sea transshipment should be banned for all gear types in order to fight IUU fishing. This recommendation was explicitly given in a presentation by PEVASA (a company that owns fishing vessels in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans), and it was echoed by other companies during the conference.

The companies at the tabling event were primarily showcasing new technology and products to improve tuna supply chains. Marine Instruments unveiled the TunaDrone, which is a drone used to locate schools of free school tuna. A technology start-up called Bitcliq answered questions about their Big Eye Smart Fishing software, which offers an electronic interoperable traceability technology solution for companies. Big Eye Smart Fishing has earned Bitcliq a spot as a finalist in the current Fish 2.0 competition.

To learn more about the 2017 Worldwide Tuna conference, visit the website: