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StarKist Brand Expands Beyond Just Tuna

StarKist, one of the US big three tuna brands, is branching out and adding canned sardines to its portfolio of products. Moving the main focus away from only its trademark tuna products, StarKist will take to the shelves with its line of Gourmet Selects Sardines.

The expansion of the company is said to be due to concerns of the long-term sustainability of the tuna sector. StarKist is diversifying into products beyond tuna to increase financial security and boost profits, as well as focusing on how to get people to eat more seafood.

Frank Pogue, vice president of marketing and innovation at StarKist, said: “We’re on to something here. People who have never eaten sardines, they’re out there and they’re asking for coupons.”

He added that the Gourmet Selects Line is likely to only see a start with sardines, and other species and different flavors could eventually be added. “The whole deal here is where can StarKist play? Where does the consumer allow us?” he said.

For over two decades, canned tuna has been the highest consumed canned fish product in the United States. In 2012, per capita consumption of canned tuna in America weighed in at 2.4 pounds (1.08kg). This amount, however, is a 0.2 pound drop from 2.6 pounds in 2011 and a 0.3 pound fall from 2.7 pounds in 2010. With StarKist being the market leader in the US and only marketing tuna products, it means the Dongwon owned company from Pittsburgh has been battling with declining volume sales for the last decade. Unable to stop the decline in the tuna category, the company sees no other options than to seek expansion and new growth in other canned seafood segments, in order to boost its market presence.

Just last month, StarKist introduced a new single-serve pouch of tuna in buttermilk and herbs to its line of Tuna Creations. Introduced across the US in 2003, it was announced recently that the product range had exceeded company forecasts by 37 percent. In just 21 weeks, StarKist Tuna Creations achieved dollar shares that exceeded four percent of the tuna category in 15 key markets.

While Pogue referred to the tuna category as being sleepy, he said that this was beginning to turn around and while the company was diversifying into other sectors, it has hung onto its position within around 40 percent of the US canned tuna market. Total canned tuna sales in the US over the last financial year, ending March 24, reached around USD 1.68 billion, according to IRI, a Chicago-based marketing research firm. This puts StarKist’s tuna sales at about USD 672 million, at a time that light meat tuna prices reached an historical peak.