Boston has been postponed; some exhibitors question the worth of rescheduling. Others wonder, what’s next?: Intrafish

The Boston fallout stretches from lost money to lost business opportunity to a 20% dip in the number of exhibitors signed up for April’s show in Brussels.

Under pressure from exhibitors and attendees and concerns about the coronavirus, the organizers of the Boston seafood show on Tuesday canceled next week’s show and are now planning on rescheduling the event, without any confirmed date yet in sight.

Read on to see how exhibitors, attendees, the city of Boston and others are dealing with the aftermath.

Brussels exhibitor numbers down from 2019 – Will the show go ahead?

The number of exhibitors at April’s Brussels seafood show is down nearly 20 percent from the total number of exhibitors at last year’s show.

Last year the number exhibitors totaled a record 2,020, according to a June 4, 2019 press release issued by show organizers Diversified Communications. On the group’s website’s posted list of exhibitors for this years event, 1,619 are listed.

It’s unclear how much the coronavirus outbreak has to do with the lower number of exhibitors, or if the number of exhibitors will grow or decline in the coming weeks before the event scheduled for April 21 -23.

When contacted by IntraFish Wednesday, Diversified said it is “working closely with the venue and local authorities in monitoring the situation as it relates to COVID-19 in Brussels,” but said the event is still scheduled to take place as planned.

However, now that the Boston show has been postponed, organizers can expect to come under pressure to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether Europe’s biggest seafood event of the year will go ahead as planned with visitors expected from every corner of the globe.

Thai Union’s new products will find other routes to market

For seafood giant Thai Union, the Boston Show would have seen the launch of two new flavors in its Infusion’s range: cracked black pepper and smoked. It also also would have seen the introduction of its new “Wild Catch” range in three options: Premium Alaskan Salmon, Premium Albacore Tuna and Premium Ahi Yellowfin Tuna.
The company was also planning on introducing its new national ad campaigns for both ranges.

For now, though, calls, Skype meetings and distribution of products to trade and consumer media will have to do, the company’s Global Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Darian McBain told IntraFish.

“The meetings and relationships we forge at SENA are important to our business but we are fortunate as we have established a long-standing tenure at SENA and those relationships will endure through absence of one show,” she said.

Siam Canadian has doubts over Brussels

For Thailand-based shrimp trader Siam Canadian, Boston is a key event and Managing Director Jim Gulkin has doubts now that the Brussels seafood show will go ahead.

“Boston is very key for us to meeting with both our supply base and customer base, but it is not to be this year. Hopefully Brussels will go as planned but frankly it does not feel likely,” he told IntraFish.

The company will now spend more time communicating and, where possible, visiting customers to make up for the cancellations.

“It’s a terrific shame but cancellation was the only realistic outcome at this point,” said Gulkin.

‘It’s a tough call’ on whether to attend re-scheduled seafood show

Rob Hallion, president of Crocker & Winsor Seafoods, was planning to celebrate the company’s 125th anniversary at this year’s seafood show. Now he’s not even sure he would attend the show if it was rescheduled this year.

“The calendar becomes tricky,” he told IntraFish. “Ours is built around March being the (Boston) seafood show, April being Brussels, Groundfish Forum is in the fall as well as the China seafood show, and the GAA meeting. It’s a tough call right now.”

He said he would, however, consider rolling over his exhibit space payment to the the March 2021 event in Boston.

Sea Delight unsure about even a re-scheduled Boston

Even before Diversified postponed the Boston show, Florida-based Sea Delight had announced it was dropping out of the event, expressing concerns over the health and safety of its employees on LinkedIn.

Alex Cook, vice president of sales at Sea Delight, told IntraFish Wednesday the company is also not planning to attend Diversified’s show in Brussels in April, noting similar concerns.

“We’re surprised they’re going forward with Brussels,” he said of Diversified’s decision not to cancel or postpone that show as well. “You have that same global forum there. We were planning on attending as participants.”

Diversified said Tuesday it remains on-track to host Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global in April in Brussels, Belgium.

It said it will be offering the choice of rolling over exhibit space payment to the future 2020 event or to the March 2021 event in Boston.

Cook said even if Boston is re-scheduled, the company does not plan to participate.

“It’s an institution,” he said of one of the world’s largest seafood exhibitions. “To think they’re coming up with some other date and are going to be able to pull that off, we don’t think that’s very likely. Between scheduling, logistics, and the international piece, we don’t see how that will happen.”

While he didn’t provide a specific estimate Cook said the company spends six figures every year to attend the show as an exhibitor.

“The reason we spend that kind of money, is because there’s a return,” he said, noting the show allows the company to connect with buyers and suppliers from around the world, as well as finalize key sales deals for the year.

“A lot of business is settled and finalized in Boston,” he said. “We’re scrambling trying to reschedule meetings we had with our key partners and suppliers. That adds costs.”

Canada fisheries tech firm pushes ahead with Boston meetings

Canadian fisheries tech firm Sedna Technologies still plans to hold a number of private meetings in Boston during the time the event was scheduled to take place.

The company’s Aleksandr Stabenow is urging contacts to reach out to him to set up a one on one meeting through the company’s website.

Riverence misses big US debut

“We were certainly sad to see the event postponed because it was going to be our first united appearance after our acquisition of Clear Springs,” Gabe Watkins, director of communications for Riverence, told IntraFish, referrring to the postponement of next week’s Boston seafood show.

In February Idaho-based Riverence Holdings acquired rival trout giant Clear Springs Foods, making the group the largest producer of land-based trout in the Americas.

“We have been closely monitoring the situation, but were planning to stick to our commitment to exhibit,” he said. Watkins said the company will lose some portion of its investment in attending the event, mostly on the airfare side.

“Hotel rooms were easily canceled without damages. Everything else, from marketing materials to video production does not lose its value on this one-event postponement,” he said.

He noted the company respects the decision from a health standpoint, describing the decision to postpone as “absolutely the right thing to do.”

Riverence is moving forward to ensure its own supply is free of risks.

“As foreign trade tensions rise and import limitations increase, we are stronger than ever, because every aspect of our business is local,” he said. “We will continue to spread the message that we are here to provide every chef and retailer in the United States with clean, consistent supply of local trout without interruption. That’s the message we aimed to tell amidst coronavirus fears in Boston, and is a message that will continue to resonate.”

Financial impacts remain unclear, say Morey’s and Stavis

Morey’s President Jim Walstrom told IntraFish the company is still evaluating show costs such as booth fees and logistics such as shipping and airfare. But there is another cost he is perhaps more concerned with. “The real impact is the lost opportunity costs, which I don’t think we will ever be able to calculate,” he said.

Earlier this year, Rich Products acquired Morey’s, a deal that will give Morey’s the ability to expand and better serve its customer base, he told IntraFish.

“The bigger impact for all of us is not directly related to the postponement of the show, but rather in the overall disruption of business habits and consumer buying patterns related to the COVID-19 issue,” he said.

“The postponement of the show seems like an appropriate response to the circumstances, as we all try to do our part to help contain the spread of the virus and each of us takes the appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of our associates and our families.”

Michael Lynch, vice president of marketing for Stavis Seafoods, echoed Walstrom, noting it’s tough to gauge the financial impacts on sales this early on, and the company will have to be more “creative from marketing perspective” this year.

“The show has always been a great opportunity for us to have face-to-face meetings with customers and vendors,” he said. “We will obviously have to find another way to do that and will look at other marketing opportunities to create that customer interaction.”

Canada tech firm pushes ahead with Boston meetings

Canadian fisheries tech firm Sedna Technologies still plans to hold a number of private meetings in Boston during the time the event was scheduled to take place.

The company’s Aleksandr Stabenow is urging contacts to reach out to him to set up a one-on-one meeting through the company’s website.

Australis Aquaculture expects ‘minimal impact’

Australis Aquaculture’s Marketing Director Julie Qiu told IntraFish it had planned to use Boston as a US launching-point for its new barramundi Clean Harvest brand. The brand launched in January in Australia, she said.

“The postponement of this show has minimal impact, if any, on that side of the business or marketing activity,” she said.

“Our team is disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to meet with customers face-to-face, but this has not impacted our ability to do business. We will convert in-person meetings into virtual ones and carry on,” she added.

Trident, Bumble Bee looking onward

US tuna giant Bumble Bee Seafoods and pollock giant Trident Seafoods both told IntraFish they respect Diversified’s decision to postpone this year’s show.

“From a health and safety perspective, Bumble Bee is in agreement that it was the appropriate decision,” sad Liz Conant, a spokeswoman for Bumble Bee.

Earlier this month Bumble Bee announced a joint venture with Gathered Foods, which produces the plant-based seafood brand Good Catch. The company initially planned to debut the product at Natural Products Expo West this week in California, but that show was also postponed due to coronavirus concerns.

Trident Seafoods, was also set to unveil new products at Expo West as well as Boston, Trident Seafoods Senior Vice President of Marketing and Innovation John Salle, told IntraFish. Now the company is waiting to talk more about those products until the events are rescheduled.

“We are going to miss seeing all of our customers and we wish everyone great health,” he said. “We look forward to a rescheduled expo and showcasing what’s new in wild Alaska seafood.”

Technology, industry may not need Boston anymore, says president of Arctic Fisheries

Michael Kotok, president of New York-based Arctic Fisheries, told IntraFish he has struggled with the Boston seafood show experience for the last decade.

Kotok said for this year’s show in Boston he has already spent $1,000 (€898) on various promotional materials and $2,800 (€2,515) in non-refundable airfare.

“It has become so costly and the business opportunities so few that even these sunk costs are minuscule compared to the overall show cost,” he said. “Lost business or lost business opportunities are believed to be minimal, though you need some time to measure that, just as you’d have to measure the success of the show over a longer term each year to justify the effort, energy and cost.”

Kotok added technology and industry culture have eclipsed the show in terms of making it less and less important for his company’s promotional calendar.

“That’s not meant to demean the people we do meet with at the show, in fact, on the contrary, those are meaningful meetings. We just don’t need the show any more to have those meaningful conversations,” he said.

GAA moves forward with key meetings

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) will proceed as planned with several key meetings despite the Boston Seafood Show’s postponement of this year’s show.

“We plan to hold the GAA board of directors meeting as well as the GSA (Global Seafood Assurances) board of directors meeting next week,”GAA Communications Manager Steve Hedlund told IntraFish.

“We also plan to move forward with GAA’s Standards Oversight Committee meeting, which was scheduled to take place at our headquarters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, immediately after SENA (Seafood Expo North America). We’re working on rescheduling those meetings now. One-on-one meetings that were scheduled to take place at the show will need to be rescheduled, of course.”

Hedlund said it’s too early to comment on the financial implications of organizer Diversified Communications’ decision to cancel the show Tuesday.

“It’s difficult to say until SENA itself is rescheduled. There’s a lot still up in the air,” he said.

Mowi proceeds as planned

US consumers will soon get their first taste of Mowi Pure salmon, the salmon farming giant’s new premium line, via a partnership with one of the world’s largest retailers. But they won’t be doing it at this year’s Boston Seafood Show.

Mowi, the world’s largest salmon producer, had initially planned to launch the product in retail giant’s fresh food delivery division, Amazon Fresh, on March 14, timed with the upcoming Seafood Expo North America in Boston.

“After receiving the news of the show cancellation we are working with all the vendors details for a future show in 2020,”Diana Dumet, director of marketing for consumer products at Mowi Americas, told IntraFish. “The participation of Mowi at this event does not directly or indirectly affect our business and everything continues to fulfill our customers expectations.”

Boston feels ‘significant’ impact from expo cancellation

Diversified Communications’ decision to not go forward with the Seafood Expo in March creates “a significant financial loss for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCAA), our vendors and contractors, hotel and restaurant partners, and thousands of tradeshow and hospitality workers who participate in putting on a show of this magnitude,” said David Gibbons, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

Over 22,000 people attended the expo last year, according to event organizers. The loss of the event reportedly would cost the city roughly $30 million (€27 million) in lost economic activity and tax revenue.

“We are taking every precaution to keep people in Boston healthy and safe,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told IntraFish of the postponement.

“We are confident that through the Boston Public Health Commission’s work with our state and federal partners, Boston is a safe place to host events like this one. We will continue to assess potential threats to ensure that we are ready to respond in case the virus does spread.”

As of Tuesday there has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The CDC is currently testing to confirm the state’s possible second case. The risk to residents in Boston remains low, according to the city.

Siam Canadian Group Frozen Seafood Exporters 

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