Establishing community and business partnerships to build a market identity for local seafood

Final Report for CS06-045

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,950.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Jennifer Ulz
Carteret Community College
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Project Information


With a grant from the Ford Foundation, Carteret county citizens established the Carteret Catch brand to increase the public's awareness of local seafood. Carteret Catch was incorporated in March 2006 and became operational in June 2006. The goal of the program is to sustain the livelihood and heritage of the Carteret County fishing industry through education and promotion. Since 2006, the program has grown to 21 commercial fishermen, four dealers, four retailers, 10 restaurants, 17 associate members and two corporate sponsors. It has also inspired four other branding programs around the globe. Carteret Catch has demonstrated to coastal North Carolina fishermen that their seafood has great value to North Carolina consumers and gives fishermen a competitive advantage over imported seafood. Carteret Catch has enabled consumers to learn what businesses are selling local seafood and when popular commodities are seasonally available. This information has increased revenue for everyone in the distribution chain: fishermen, dealers, retailers and restaurants.


Commercial fishing has been an integral part of Carteret County's heritage and economy for nearly 400 years. Since the mid 1960s, Carteret County has been home to the largest number of licensed fishermen in North Carolina. By supplying a variety of fresh seafood to local residents and major cities along the eastern seaboard, county fishermen satisfied a strong demand for quality, seasonal seafood - and earned a sustainable living doing so.

During the last decade, lower-cost imported products have displaced domestic seafood in many commercial markets. Today, more than 80 percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from overseas, yet a growing number of consumers are searching for local and regional domestic commodities. With a grant from the Ford Foundation to Carteret Community College, county citizens established the Carteret Catch brand to increase the public's awareness of local seafood.

The Carteret Catch mission to sustain the livelihood and heritage of the Carteret County fishing industry through education and promotion. A joint venture between the county's fishing industry and its business partners, the brand highlights seasonal seafood harvested by local fishermen.

Project Objectives:

1) Display the Carteret Catch logo prominently at restaurants and seafood retail stores using static window decals and flags: The organization developed decals and flags that featured not only the logo, but also the website ( to interest consumers in its online education program.
2) Advertise in local papers to inform county residents about Carteret Catch and the businesses that participate in the program: The organization placed prominent features in the Carteret County News-Times and in publications managed by the Crystal Coast Hospitality Association.
3) Position postcard-size brochures about the Carteret Catch program at the counters of restaurants and retail stores: Five-thousand postcards were printed and distributed to the members for distribution to customers. Postcards were also placed at visitors centers and in various tourist destinations (Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium) around the county.
4)Randomly mail postcard brochures to select number of county residents to elevate awareness of the Carteret Catch program: The organization decided print advertising in local papers reached more people and was a more cost effective means of promotion.
5) Display NC Seafood Availability Charts at retail stores to tell consumers when local seafood is seasonally available: The organization purchased well over 1000 charts. A select number were laminated for display in restaurants and in seafood retail stores. The remainder were given to consumers at promotional events, such as the NC Seafood Festival.
6) Staff a booth at two major public events - the NC Seafood Festival and the Core Sound Waterfowl Festival - to promote the organization to the public: The organization promoted the brand at both events in 2007 and in 2008. It will do so again in 2009. Last year the organization developed in partnership with the NC Seafood Festival a new event to highlight local seafood. "Cooking with the Chefs: A NC Seafood Experience" was a Food Channel-style event that featured chefs from Carteret Catch restaurants preparing a signature seafood dish using local seafood. Local seafood was donated by Carteret Catch fishermen. Carteret Catch postcards and NC Seafood Availability Charts were distributed to attendees to educate the public about the program and the seasonal availability of coastal commodities. The event was so well received by the public it was designated a permanent event by the NC Seafood Festival board of directors.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Libby Eaton
  • Gretchen Martin
  • Pam Morris
  • Barry Nash


Materials and methods:

Methods and prominent outcomes were included under "Objectives."

Research results and discussion:

In a Carteret County survey conducted by Dr. Rita O’Sullivan and Dr. Amy Anderson of UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007 and 2008, 40 percent of respondents said they had heard of Carteret Catch. In addition, ninety-five percent of respondents stated they would buy Carteret Catch seafood if it were available in other North Carolina markets. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they prefer local seafood over imports when given a choice, and 90 percent indicated they would be willing to pay a premium price to ensure the seafood they buy is of local origin.

Carteret Catch has inspired four local seafood branding programs. In 2008 "Queensland Catch" was launched by the Queensland Seafood Industry Association in Australia ( Fishermen in Brunswick County, NC launched "Brunswick Catch: Fresh from local fishermen to you" ( April 2009, and the Ocracoke Seafood Company of Ocracoke, NC will launch "Ocracoke Fresh: Caught today the traditional way" this summer. Fishermen in Port Clyde, Maine also began a local seafood branding program last year modeled after Carteret Catch.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

The principal investigators plan to submit a publication to the Journal of Social Marketing this year describing the development of and the impacts of the Carteret Catch program on the county's seafood industry.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

This cannot be quantified as the organization's membership does not share its profit and loss statements with the Carteret Catch board, but almost all of the restaurants and retail stores have verbally communicated how much the Carteret Catch program has increased their business in the last two years. One restaurant member stated that orders for a signature seafood preparation at her restaurant jumped 200 percent since when it was advertised on her menu as a Carteret Catch species. The Carteret Catch program has demonstrated to fishermen not only the power of branding, but that their seafood is in high demand by the public. Fishermen now feel they have a competitive advantage over their foreign rivals.


Potential Contributions

Please refer to "Outcomes and Impacts."

Future Recommendations

Local branding programs, such as Carteret Catch, are coming online to take advantage of the national consumer trend of eating more locally grown or harvested food products. Carteret Catch has joined an effort in North Carolina to develop a statewide sustainable local foods program. Carteret Catch will represent the interests of fishermen in all 20 coastal counties, not just in Carteret County. The goal is to create a network of buyers and producers that buy primarily from in-state food businesses. This effort will help coastal fishermen build new markets for their seafood in-state, making them less reliant on large northeast USA markets where imports have taken a great deal of market share away from domestic seafood producers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.