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P.E.I. aims to become 'Canada's Food Island'

Province hopes to bolster tourism and food sales with new marketing plan

Prince Edward Island has unveiled a marketing strategy in hopes of increasing tourism dollars and bolstering the marketing efforts of the island's fishers, farmers and food processors.

The strategy brands the province as “Canada’s Food Island.”

“Islanders are proud of our food culture," new P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan said at last week’s launch.

He noted food accounts for 40% of P.E.I.'s international exports, while agriculture represents 10% of the island's gross domestic product.

"We are deeply connected to the land and sea, and harvest some of the finest products in the world, including potatoes, shellfish, blueberries and beef,” said the premier.

The new strategy will build on that reputation, and boost tourism and food sales in the process. The province is working with Ottawa and the food indusetry to implement several initiatives.

Plans include the establishment of a new lending program for P.E.I. beef farmers (dubbed P.E.I. Lean Beef), an expansion of the island’s fresh lobster holding capacity, and the development of new overseas markets for value-added food products.

The government will also encourage its residents to buy local and continue support for popular island food events like the Fall Flavours Festival.

Another noteworthy initiative aimed squarely at food-loving travellers in Quebec, P.E.I.'s largest tourist market, is a partnership with Montreal celebrity chef Ricardo.

P.E.I.'s culinary offerings will be featured in 30-second and 15-second ads during two April episodes of Ricardo's popular cooking show on Radio-Canada.

The island province will also be featured in full-page ads in an upcoming issue of Ricardo's self-titled monthly magazine.

For Maritimes-based marketing expert Dan Shaw, P.E.I.'s plan makes good sense.

"If you look at the way Newfoundland, P.E.I and Nova Scotia have been marketing themselves, the focus has been as authentic, off-the-beaten-path vacation destinations," said Shaw, lecturer and director of the corporate residency MBA program at Dalhousie University. "Local-grown food and value-added food products the Maritimes fits in with this well."

Halifax branding expert Larry Burke agrees.

"When it comes to branding, there has to be a foundation of truth for it to be successful," said Burke, who has helped food companies like P.E.I.'s Mussel King with the branding of value-added products.

"I tell people all the time that you can enjoy a 100-mile diet almost year round with some of the highest quality foods in the world," he added. "So yes, I think their new plan is capitalizing nicely on what have to offer."

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