Bumble Bee Mesquite Grilled Albacore Tuna Steak

Bumble Bee takes pouched tuna one step higher with Mesquite Grilled Albacore Tuna Steak.

By Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley, Consumer Understanding Editors

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The package is a pouch with an easy-open tear across the top. Most consumers have moved up from the cans to the pouches as they are easier to open and the fish inside is fresher-looking with less liquid. But for this fish to move one more step to being considered a quick meal it must become a provisioned, stored food that is available anytime. The package enables storage in the cupboard at room temperature, so the fish is available at all times.

The back of the package gives three different preparation options (oven, stove top and microwave) along with the timing. This is a product for a convenience-mindset person.

The package opens easily. The tear allows the consumer to control the opening. Once it’s open, the aroma is apparent. However, this was not a tuna aroma (strong and fishy) but the aroma of the flavoring. The fishy smell is noticeably absent – this says quality.

The tuna is moderately flavored with a non-fishy flavor supporting the idea that this is fresh. The grilled flavor was smoky. The fillet was not oily or watery – rather firm like a hunk of meat. People on a high-protein diet who select this fish have something to wrap their teeth around. While not the texture or moistness of lightly seared ahi tuna from a great seafood grill, the firm texture was pleasant.

The ingredient statement is white tuna, marinade and black pepper. It is 4 oz. (a standard serving size), which is quite convenient when the consumer is focused on portion control. It has 150 calories per serving, with 10 calories from fat; protein is 35 g (if you are trying to get a lot of protein on your high protein diet, this is a great option); and sodium is only 370 mg, or 15 percent of the daily recommended amount. This is really healthy stuff.

Does the product deliver?

This brand stands for premium quality and for variety. The brand has bounced around a bit, moving from International Home Foods in 1997 (which was purchased by ConAgra in 2000) to Centre Partners and the Bumble Bee management team in 2003, now combining with Connors Bros. Income Fund to become the largest branded seafood company in North America in 2004.

This is premium-quality tuna that gives you variety. The new package gives the consumer the option of “fresh-like” fish that is storable on the shelf, easy to open and available when you want fish -- without stinking up your refrigerator.

How to make the idea bigger

While the product delivers on the promise, there are some opportunities to make this one even bigger.

The fish is great, and it makes meal preparation easier. In the prepackaged meal category, there are no fish options; just several varieties of meat. Cobranding or co-marketing it with a rice package (think Uncle Ben’s 90-second rice package – our article from June 2004) would make this just a little more filling, a complete meal that is fresh and homemade.

Eating the product right out of the pouch (an option if you are a high-protein eater or need protein after exercising) resulted in the flavor marinade being a little too strong. Not sure what to do about that – maybe we should try a different flavor.

This is a product that goes well with water (unlike a burger, which is ideal with soft drinks), but the smoky flavor is strong. Is there an opportunity to dial in flavor a little more? Maybe.

Rating: Both the product and package deliver on the promises.

Market Potential: Good. The package is easy to open and store. It allows consumers to move fish from frozen or fresh to an easily stored food that can be eaten when desired. And what’s inside is definitely high quality: a ready-to-heat, entrée-quality tuna steak that will become the centerpiece of a nice seafood meal in only minutes.

Hollis Ashman (hollis@theuandigroup.com) is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley (jackie@theuandigroup.com) is president of the Understanding and Insight Group, a strategy, business and product development firm. See www.theuandigroup.com.

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