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Reauthorized MLMC Plans More Innovations in 2018

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) is entering its sixth year of operation. Created by the Legislature in 2013, the MLMC has focused its activities on differentiating Maine lobster in the minds of consumers, driving demand for Maine’s most valuable marine species. Executive director Matt Jacobson highlighted the MLMC’s past accomplishments and its plans for 2018 at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in early March. “Our research led us to focus on markets primarily within the U.S. We believed (and still believe) that our dollars would go further here at home, that our story would have more resonance, and that we would be able to reach more people for the money spent,” Jacobson said. The Collaborative’s marketing goal has always been to generate demand for Maine soft-shell lobster, specifically from U.S. chefs and food professionals. The majority of the catch landed by Maine lobstermen is soft-shell, or as the MLMC calls it, new-shell lobster. If chefs and consumers seek out new-shell lobster during the time of greatest landings, the price for that lobster will go up. In addition, nearly two-thirds of all seafood consumed in the United States is eaten at a restaurant. Prompting those consumers to request new-shell lobster means getting the chefs and food professionals who set the menus to see Maine lobster as a seasonal, much-sought-after delicacy. Hence the MLMC’s slogan “Make it Maine, Make it New-Shell.” The MLMC began an innovative campaign to introduce chefs and food industry professionals to Maine’s new-shell lobster in 2016 with its “Maine after Midnight” series of events. MLMC staff, Maine lobstermen and local celebrity chefs staged late-night lobster tastings at high-end restaurants in large cities across the country to give those chefs a chance to sample lobster dishes after they closed their own restaurants for the night. The events, in New York City, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco and elsewhere, generated local media coverage and, more importantly, encouraged those attending to add Maine new-shell lobster dishes to their own menus. In 2017, 850 people attended the four “Maine After Midnight” events. Multiple forms of social media have been harnessed to garner attention for Maine new-shell lobster and for the stories of Maine’s lobstering communities (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube), Jacobson noted. Since 2014, the MLMC has reached 25 million social media users; generated 5 million likes, comments, clicks and shares; recorded 2.5 million visitors to its web site (LobsterfromMaine.com); and increased social media mentions of “Maine Lobster” by 433%. While these social media statistics are not as tangible as a face-to-face conversation with a celebrity chef, they indicate that the Maine lobster identity is making its way into the social media realm. In 2018, the MLMC will use technology to make the story of Maine lobster vivid for those curious about lobstering and cooking with lobster products. The Collaborative will produce a new series of videos focusing on the world of a lobsterman and the versatility of lobster as a food product. The four-episode video series will feature a Maine lobsterman and a chef or food media person fishing for a day. The video will end with a family meal prepared in the lobsterman’s home. The goal is to show those who may never have the opportunity to step on a lobster boat what the experience of fishing and preparing a lobster is like. The second series of videos will be several “how to” episodes which demonstrate the versatility and culinary applications for different lobster products, such as whole frozen lobsters, tail meat, and value-added products. The goal is to make clear how easy it is to work with all forms of lobster to create dishes suitable for a restaurant or eating at home. The Collaborative will also begin using GoLive to create live broadcasts aimed at those interested in Maine new-shell lobster. A kick-off event will take place in New York City, where chefs and Maine lobstermen will gather for a meal and conversation in order to illustrate the relationship between those who harvest and those who prepare Maine lobster. The live broadcast will be followed by a “Maine After Midnight” event attended by chefs, media, and food industry professionals. The Collaborative will continue to Chicago for another live broadcast with celebrity chefs from that city and Maine lobstermen. Later in the evening the chefs will prepare signature dishes using Maine new-shell lobster. Invited chefs and others in the Chicago food world be able to talk to the lobstermen and chefs while sampling the various lobster dishes.

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