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ASMI partners with reality show chain to reach 'superconsumers'

San Pedro is the fifth most instagrammed restaurant in the United States, according to its website.

In the latest episode of the online reality series "Kings of Fi$h," Mike Ungaro, vice market president of California-based San Pedro Fish Market, is seen entering the popular local restaurant.

Ungaro and the restaurant's executive chef Dustin Trani laugh as the camera zooms in on a product unique to their culinary repertoire: pouched Alaska sockeye salmon. After several delectable scenes that include onion and garlic chopping and caper topping, Ungaro tastes pouched salmon turned into mouthwatering Sicilian-style fettucini.

"This is fantastic," he says.

Ungaro, whose fish market served 1.7 million visitors in 2017, partnered with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) to promote the pouched salmon. He told IntraFish he saw the marketability in the salmon being shelf stable.

Usually, he said, customers are afraid of buying an expensive Alaskan salmon and having it go bad on the way home, or cooking it wrong.

"One advantage to us as a fish market/restaurant is if people are scared to bring it home, the fish can be cooked here and they eat it on the premises," he said.

Victoria Parr, the domestic marketing director with ASMI, told IntraFish San Pedro's impressive consumer-facing entertainment profile was one of the reasons ASMI partnered with the fish market.

Parr said an interest in food-as-entertainment is driving one "superconsumer" group called "originators." A superconsumer is a consumer passionate to the point of obsession about a product.

According to ASMI, originators are tuned into current trends, make purchasing decisions deliberately and are the early adopters across consumer categories. This group, responsible for 18 percent of all consumer seafood spend, is the first to try the new restaurant on the block and isn’t nervous about trying to make the same dish at home.

San Pedro Fish Market is a 3,000-seat enterprise located on a 50,000 square foot waterfront that is part of a major renovation plan in Los Angeles. The storied market, dating back three generations, is today one of the most instagrammed restaurants in the world.

Ungaro said the market saw a revenue of a little over $25 million (€21 million) in 2017. "That puts us at No. 2 behind SeaWorld," he said, in terms of paid, seaside attractions.

The market's best-selling item is shrimp.

"It's probably 80 percent of our sales," he said. He said last year the company sold 150 metric tons of shrimp.

Social media hype around the company's famed 100+ pound seafood tray has also led to higher sales of specific items, such as black mussels.

San Pedro at the time was working with California-based Catalina Sea Ranch, which harvested the mussels. The fish market used the mussels to top the massive tray and help the shrimp and lobster pop in photos. As a result, sales of mussels increased to around 150 pounds a week, Ungaro says.

Before the tray, Ungaro said the company would sell around 20 pounds of mussels per week.

60257fde1ef61aa8e5f7cbe112c43b2c San Pedro Fish Market Grille Photo: Courtesy of Anderson Group Public Relations

People have enjoyed eating on the premises so much that San Pedro recently opened a new fast-casual dining restaurant and has plans for two more restaurant openings this summer.

Ungaro said one of the market's new properties was a former Joe's Crab Shack that he is looking to make into a coastal eatery that could potentially be franchised as part of the fish market's reality show.

And ASMI is looking to collaborate more with San Pedro on future events, including Facebook live, given the restaurant's far-reaching social media and on-the-ground appeal.