Inland Bays Oysters… A Southern Delaware Delicacy

New brand and marketing campaign launched for commercially produced local oysters

Rehoboth Beach, DE (January 11, 2019)- The Inland Bays fledgling shellfish aquaculture industry is aiming to develop a strong market-share for Inland Bays oyster products. In order to accomplish this goal, creating brand equity for oyster producers and brand affinity with consumers is critical to sustaining market success.

To attract interest in Inland Bays oysters, Delaware Sea Grant hosted a product brand launch held at Blue Coast Seafood Grill and Raw Bar in Rehoboth Beach where the efforts and funding to support this new local industry were highlighted.

delaware oysters, aquaculture,  inland bays, oyster farming
Sen. Tom Carper (left), oyster farmer Chris Redefer (center), and Sen. Chris Coons pose before enjoying Inland Bays Oysters during the brand launch event Jan. 11.

Development of a “premium” brand for Inland Bays oysters began when Delaware Sea Grant organized a steering committee comprised of shellfish growers, restaurateurs, tourism officials, resource professionals, and other interested stakeholders. One of the goals of the steering committee was to increase price points for locally-produced oysters, thereby enhancing profitability for growers and benefiting the local economy.
The committee determined that the brand must feature a premium oyster that appeals to consumers, supports the local culinary and tourist markets, improves the health of the Inland Bays and has the potential to succeed beyond local markets.

Current competition for cultured oysters ranges from Virginia to Canada, but the primary competition is Maryland, and especially, Virginia—particularly Chincoteague oysters.

Inland Bays Oysters… A Southern Delaware Delicacy
Inland Bays Oysters… A Southern Delaware Delicacy

With assistance from a branding consultant, the steering committee recognized that a successful oyster brand must initially focus on its local origin in Southern Delaware, but not so much that it prevents marketing beyond Delaware. In response, the new brand- Inland Bays Oysters… A Southern Delaware Delicacy- was created along with a fresh and vibrant marketing logo.

Ed Lewandowski, project lead at the University of Delaware, was pleased with the brand position statement.  “The new brand promises that Inland Bays oysters will provide consumers with a product that uniquely captures the flavor of Delaware’s Inland Bays.  It offers a superior shellfish product with an exceptionally attractive flavor, texture and size profile that will support the culinary, cultural and economic life of Southern Delaware all while improving the water quality and ecology of Delaware’s Inland Bays,” he said.

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To test the efficacy of the new brand, Dr. Kent Messer from the University of Delaware’s Center for Experimental and Applied Economics, evaluated consumer preferences for Delaware oysters and gauged the economics of a variety of marketing messages.  According to Dr. Messer, “Marketing local is a key to successful product pricing.  Consumers are willing to pay higher prices for oysters accompanied by the Inland Bays oyster logo.  In response to the logo, 28% of locals would pay a higher price for locally-produced oysters while 13% of tourists would do the same.”

delaware oysters, aquaculture,  inland bays, oyster farming
Delaware Sea Grant community development specialist Ed Lewandowski speaks about the Inland Bays Oysters brand he helped develop during the launch event Jan. 11.

Chris Redefer, one of the first local growers to bring Inland Bays oysters to market, expressed support for both the branding and economic evaluation efforts completed by the University of Delaware.  “With this new brand in place and an understanding about the results from the economic evaluation, I am confident that the Dewey Selects oysters I am growing will be competitive in the local marketplace,” Redefer said. “I look forward to using branding strategies to expand interest in this product throughout our region and beyond.”

A USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant was awarded to Delaware Sea Grant to support the development of the Inland Bays oyster brand.  Federal funding for the economic evaluation of marketing messages was provided through a NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Research award that supported the development of emerging systems or technologies that will advance aquaculture in the U.S., including projects that will help stimulate aquaculture production by nascent industries.

“I think that Delaware Inland Bay oysters can become a product and a brand that people ask for and enjoy, and in doing so also provide big ‘eco’ benefits – both ecologic and economic,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “I’m so proud the federal government is supporting the growth of oyster aquaculture here in the Inland Bays, and I can’t wait to enjoy the harvest.”

“This is a great example of how smart, targeted federal investments can help Delaware businesses grow and succeed,” said Senator Coons, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “I’m excited about the future of Inland Bays Oysters, and I’m looking forward to showing them off at our annual ‘Taste of Delaware’ event in the Capitol.”

For more information or questions, please contact Ed Lewandowski, Delaware Sea Grant College Program at 302-645-4253. 

Ed Lewandowski

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