Fish Tales: The importance of sustainable seafood stories
Bart van Olphen is a chef, author and the face of Fish Tales, a new sustainable seafood brand. Since 2002 Bart has worked with fisheries all over the world and is the recipient of numerous awards for his sustainability work. He also runs workshops and conferences. We asked him for his story…
You’re something of a spokesperson for sustainability, how did this come about?
When I started in the seafood business in 2002 I was totally unaware of the fact that there is sustainable and non-sustainable fish. I was first inspired while working at the Lucas Carton restaurant in Paris and it became my mission to offer Dutch consumers a broad selection of great fish with a story and a clear origin. At the Michelin starred restaurant, suppliers came in daily with another fresh catch, but more interestingly, all kind of stories were included with those wonderful pieces of fish. I learned about the fishing communities, their fishing methods, the main seasons and how they live their lives. All of this inspired me to start my first fish business.
Why do you think stories are so important?
Surveys also have shown that consumers like a product better when they know the story behind it and ‘feel’ the total ‘brand experience’. For example, if you buy a wonderful bottle of Chablis at a French vineyard – where it probably costs more – you’ll have a more positive feeling than when buying and drinking the exact same bottle at the local liquor store. The same goes for other products. Look at Ben & Jerry’s, Apple or Innocent; these brands tell stories that build your trust in them and give you a good feeling.
What makes seafood stories so special?
You won’t be able to easily find a nice story behind every product. Highly educated marketing managers and communications directors are needed to bring out stories people hopefully pick up. This is the reason why I am so happy to be active in the seafood business: because fish is the only product we still consume from the wild, it leads directly to many great stories, beautiful scenery and people. Communicating seafood is the easiest job to do; you just build a bridge between producers and consumers and tell the real story in as transparent a way as possible.
Seafood also has a different angle compared to many other primary food chains. A brand could establish a good relationship with the consumer based on the communities they work with, the extras served with the product, the social values etc. But one thing must be approved independently: the sustainability of the species or stock used in the product range.
Why does independence matter to you?
Today’s seafood consumers will only believe in your brand, product and stories when they are assured they contribute to a better world while buying your products. If the subject is about fish stocks or healthy oceans for future generations, you better make sure to use a fully independent ecolabel. Would you ever trust a brand using their own label while trying to sell you sustainable fish? Forget it! The MSC’s independence and its recognition among my customers give the Fish Tales brand clarity and proof that we’re operating sustainably from a marine perspective.
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