Seafood industry supply chains are notorious for being long and opaque. Not for oyster growers, said Monica Jain, founder of the sustainable seafood investment competition Fish 2.0, who sees oysters as one of the most promising sectors represented in this year’s applicant pool.
“Most people [growers] are selling them direct,” Jain told Undercurrent News. She connects with oyster companies regularly through her biennial competition. This year, 161 entered for the chance to become one of the 40 finalists to present their sustainable seafood business ideas to a room of 300 attendees, including investors, at the finals in November.
At this point, "of the 80 contestants moving on to this year’s competition’s final rounds, more than a dozen are oyster companies", Jain said.
Restaurants are beginning to tell the story of oyster varietals’ origins and encouraging customers to master the flavor profiles of various seeds. This marketing is similar to the strategies restaurants use for wine, where discussing the product is part of the lure of the product itself. Restaurants that buy direct can educate consumers on these points more easily, since they are already in contact with those who know everything about the product’s origin. This strategy seems to be working with consumers, Jain said.
“Restaurants actually don’t make a lot of money on [oysters], but they want them on the menu because it drives traffic,” Jain said. “People really look for places that have oysters on the menu, especially fresh oysters. [Restaurants] are excited about it because it brings people in.”
For example, In Carmel, California, there are several places that do a wine and oyster pairing to bring customers in. Regardless of how much restaurants make on these sales alone, they have a big impact when many of those customers decide to stay for dinner, said Jain, who is based in California.