Alfonso Vázquez
Commercial Director
Pinsa Comercial

Tuna from Mexico to the World

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:16

Mexico is a tuna dynamo. With a total 96,793 tons of tuna captured in 2017, the country contributed 4.7 percent to total world production. Alfonso Vázquez, Commercial Director at Pinsa Comercial, believes, however, that the home game remains a good bet for growth. “Mexico’s tuna consumption is not low but we believe the domestic market offers a significant opportunity that could boost the industry.”
Grupo Pinsa is the umbrella group for independent companies dedicated to specific tasks within the production chain of the tuna and sardine industries, which makes it self-sufficient in all processes. In addition to canned tuna, it has a frozen tuna division that is taking off thanks to exports. Pinsa Comercial operates the commercial branch. “Our task is to commercialize for the mass market all the products generated by the group but also brands that could be outside our production scope, like a line of Canadian snacks called Brunswick,” says Vázquez.
According to SAGARPA’s 2018 National Agroalimentary Atlas, Mexico is the 13th-largest tuna producer in the world. With seven brands, three of them canned tuna, Grupo Pinsa has positioned itself as the clear industry leader. “Canned tuna represents almost 5 percent of the entire category of processed food and within the canned tuna market we hold between 55 and 60 percent of the market share,” says Vázquez.  He says consumption in Mexico averages eight cans of tuna per person annually, a number that SAGARPA rounds up to 1.1kg per capita. “We believe that tuna consumption could reach the levels of other canned products,” says Vázquez. According to a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the largest consumer of canned tuna in the world is the US, followed by Japan, the UK and Spain. The European Commission puts average per capita tuna consumption at 2.6kg per year, more than doubling Mexican consumption.  
Vázquez says Pinsa Comercial’s strategy to increase tuna consumption in the country is based on new methods of innovation, commercialization and communication. “Beyond commercializing extra tuna brands, we need to commercialize product innovation. Consumers should start thinking about tuna through different concepts.” An example of innovation that, according to Vázquez, had a positive impact on consumption levels is related to packaging. “Our packaging with a lid and a spoon for instant consumption was an innovation that encouraged people to consume more canned tuna.”
Consumer communication is another important variable. “Consumers need to be more aware of the benefits of eating tuna,” says Vázquez. “We need to invite consumers to eat canned tuna in different ways.” An important factor in favor of canned tuna is related to prices. “In Mexico, a can of tuna is more economical than in other parts of the world,” says Vázquez, who adds that in the US a can of tuna can be up to 30 or 40 percent more expensive than in Mexico.
Although Mexico stands out as one of the world’s most important tuna producers, Vázquez says exports have not grown as expected due to trade limitations such as those imposed by the US tuna embargo. The establishment of USMCA, therefore, would likely have no direct impact on the company’s operations. “Even if the US decided to impose taxes on Mexican tuna, we have experienced nontariff barriers that are tougher than any tax.” Vázquez says that Grupo Pinsa has positioned its products in Hispanic neighborhoods in the US but not at national supermarket chains.
The US market has proven a complicated arena for Mexican tuna but Japan has been a different story as it received a significant share of Mexican tuna exports in 2016. Vázquez is convinced that the coming two years will be profitable for the group. “In the past, we have grown over seven points in market share, we have expanded the canned tuna category and we continue to see opportunities in the market.”