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Okains Bay Seafood - Telling our New Zealand story

Thursday 13 October 2016

Okains Bay Seafoods' new vessel The Kawatea

Okains Bay Seafood is built on the principle of care of people and place, and all business decisions are made based on the impact they’ll have on New Zealand’s open spaces.

Greg Summerton, Founder of Okains Bay Seafood, says customers really value the way the Okains team place great importance on looking after New Zealand’s environment and natural resources for current and future generations.

“The world is waking up to the need for sustainable seafood. It’s not just about showing our fish come from the clean waters of New Zealand. We need to demonstrate that we are looking after our sea and fish for future generations.

“All fish are caught using hook and bait long lining, meaning we can target high-value species and leave other fish undisturbed. This has low impact on the seabed and produces better quality fish because they are less stressed in the catching process. We’ve also invested in a bio diesel fuelled fleet to reduce our carbon footprint.

“Kaimoana is a gift from the sea. We are very mindful of the need to treat this valuable resource with respect, harvesting it sustainably and adding value with sophisticated processing, logistics and marketing. For us this is about kaitiakitanga. We’re proud of our role as guardians of this place, we understand the traditions of hunting and value water as the source of all life.

“Our story and our emphasis on kaitiakitanga particularly resonates with the Chinese market. They really value the idea of having a long term view. It’s not just your lifetime or their lifetime, it’s for future generations. Just like us, it comes from the past and travels to the future, and you’re only one little piece along that journey,” says Summerton.

Operating in a competitive global marketplace means Okains Bay Seafood has to distinguish itself from other seafood companies dotted around the world. Telling the rich and unique story of Summerton’s Whakapapa has been vital in differentiating the business.

Summerton can trace his Maori ancestry back to Rakaihautu, who arrived in New Zealand during the great migration from Polynesia. Since 1840 all his forbearers have been commercial fishermen and this has formed the basis of the compelling New Zealand Story he tells customers.

“Customers are looking for honesty and integrity. Our whakapapa gives them that. It’s who we are and where we’ve come from and is our guiding light into the future.

“Most fishing companies around the world know how to produce fresh, high quality fish. The only difference we have is the New Zealand brand and our whakapapa. It gives buyers a certain amount of satisfaction that we have a clear desire to look after our environment and business for future generations. We have a conscience that runs deep, a conscience that comes from our whakapapa, and it goes on past us to the future.

“We supply one of the world’s largest supermarket chains in the United States, which is a real coup for us. The way we got in the door and brokered the deal was by explaining our story and our brand. Brand is key and it was quite a simple process because it’s real. By telling the story of who we are, where we’ve come from and what we stand for customers have a clear understanding of what they are buying,” says Summerton.

The intertwining of traditional fishing methods and advanced technology gives Okains Bay Seafood its competitive advantage. This fresh, outward-looking way of thinking about the industry has delivered real benefits for Okains, but it’s been vital for Greg Summerton to find ways to tell every customer.

Summerton has long told customers face-to-face about the benefits of long line fishing and the heritage that comes from his Whakapapa. But decided to take a different approach to ensure this story translated through to every customer, with every product.

“Our QR code system was an industry first. Major buyers have been blown away by the system. It means each customer can use their smart phone to find the status of the fisheries, how it has been harvested, where we caught it, when we caught it, when it was processed and how it was shipped.

“More than just proving the provenance of our product, the QR code system leads into the whole Okains Bay story, the environment these fish come from, the Whakapapa and the sustainability of the fisheries. It allows our customers to connect with us on a deeper level,” says Summerton.

Okains Bay Seafood is one of many New Zealand exporters who share their unique New Zealand Story to help market and differentiate themselves internationally. The NZ Story is a free government initiative whose purpose is to enhance New Zealand’s reputation beyond natural beauty.

It does this by explaining New Zealand’s unique story and enabling exporters and businesses to make it their own.

The NZ Story offers workshops and an online toolkit with case studies, infographics and high-resolution images and videos, including raw footage, to help businesses articulate the unique value of their New Zealandness to an international audience.

To find out more about the New Zealand Story visit: www.nzstory.


Founder & Owner of Okains Bay Seafood


Greg Summerton with Ngai Tahu kaumatua the late Rik Tau (Henare Rakiihia Taua) at the blessing of the company’s new vessel Kawatea.

Greg Summerton

Greg Summerton is the founder and owner of Lyttleton-based Okains Bay Seafood, one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned long-line fishing companies. Since 1840 all of Summerton’s forebearers have been commercial fishermen.

When he left school he swiftly followed this tradition and learnt about the fishing industry from the ground up. Summerton has progressed from his early days fishing for flounder in a rowboat, to now employing more than 50 people and exporting his products around the world.

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