A profitable future for the Australian wild-caught abalone industry relies on having strong consumer demand for our product. Consumer demand along with a strong healthy resource are our two greatest assets.
Consumer demand drives demand back through the chain to us, the producers. It is what keeps us in business.
BUT how much do we know about who our abalone consumers are, what they like about our abalone and where our future consumers will come from?
As an industry we need to understand our target consumers, what they value and what they will pay a premium for. ACA market research (2010 -2015) showed that, because Australian wild-caught abalone is a premium product, our consumers are more likely to be wealthier than average. These consumers do not buy on price, they buy on value, and they value the fact that our product, among other things, is rare and is hand caught by divers. For more about what our consumers value see page 7 of the proposed Consumer Education and Promotion Program.
Grey Group, one of the world’s largest marketing agencies, helped develop the AWA® Program in 2010. In their research they found, among other things, that our traditional consumers were getting older and that the new generation of wealthy consumers really weren’t showing the same enthusiasm for Australian wild-caught Abalone as their parents and grandparents had. This is a constant challenge for anyone selling any product – keeping existing consumers and getting new ones (to replace the ones who inevitably drop off).
The global abalone marketplace is far more competitive today than it was in 2010 (see below). For more information see pages 8 and 9 of the Levy Investment Proposal.
Our target consumers have far more choice for spending their money than ever before.
Wealth in China is concentrated in younger consumers with the highest level of average monthly income earned by people aged 18 to 29 and the lowest level of disposable income available to people aged 46 years or older. In USA the opposite is true, the lowest average monthly income earned by people aged 18 to 24 with the highest income earned by people aged 45 to 54.
A recent report concluded that Gen Z in China are poised to change the landscape of luxury market globally impacting on every brand, (including Australian wild-caught abalone) targeting the luxury premium consumer.
Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1997) and Gen Z (born after 1998) are our future abalone connoisseurs. They are wealthier than any previous generations and their purchasing behaviour is very different from older generations.
We need to find this new generation of premium abalone consumers and educate them about Australia’s beautiful wild-caught abalone products.
We need to know: Where do they live? How old are they? What are they looking for in an abalone product? How do they decide whether to buy abalone or not? What will they pay a premium for? How do they like to eat it? When do they like to eat it? Where will they go to find out about Australian wild-caught Abalone?
It is not just about finding our future consumers, we need to educate all our consumers, current and future, show them how we catch the product and how care is taken through the supply chain to get the product to them. We need to help them find our products, and how to tell whether the product is genuinely Australian wild-caught abalone.
Sam Guthrie, until recently Australia’s Deputy Consul General in Hong Kong, presented at the Australasian Abalone Convention. He provided examples of what other seafood industries are doing to capture the hearts and minds of their consumers.
The Japanese abalone industry has worked hard to educate the Hong Kong market about their product and has built a reputation based on some unique characteristics that consumers will pay significant premiums for – many of these same attributes that Australia abalone has (but we don’t tell anyone).
If we don’t work collectively as an industry to do something different, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant to our target consumers.
Will Australian wild-caught abalone go the way of the typewriter and the fax machine and disappear to be museum exhibits, or will we reinvent ourselves and our product and become trendy, something that is desirable, socially relevant, a status symbol, a luxurious gourmet food?
It is your choice. This is what you are being asked to vote on.
We are suggesting that we collectively invest via a compulsory levy. in consumer education and promotion for 5 years.
We need to make a change to how we interact with our consumers to give them something they want to buy and pay a premium for it.
The Consumer Education and Promotion Program (CEP) is our plan for how we as an industry can do this. The investment from the proposed levy will be used to implement it.
Ask the experts
Ewan Colquhoun, Director of Ridge Partners explores the data behind the Abalone Council Australia Ltd proposal to invest in consumer educations and marketing, below. Anthony Wan, Co-Founder of G-Fresh takes a look at the market trends driving consumer behaviour in China.