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ESF workshop about local food in Europe. Reports, presentations and case studies/Séminaire ESF sur les produits locaux en Europe. Rapports, présentations et études de cas

The concept of glocal seafood: a case study of Madagascar shrimps

Inger Beate Pettersen


This paper discusses the concept of glocal seafood through theories drawn from geography and marketing. The central theme of the paper is the effect of globalization processes on local production systems. We discuss the relative power of local and global forces and the interplay between local and global and actors. Moreover, we explain the specific glocalization process of the seafood industry and provide evidence from an empirical study of the success on the French market of shrimps from Madagascar, a pioneering country with regard to developing sustainable fisheries and seafood farming. The case shows that local actors have the power and control to set conditions and define strategies for economic growth in the local seafood industry. However, the local production system in turns depends on foreign resources – financial, technical and human, to create economic growth. The success of Madagascar shrimps is therefore the result of the long term interplay between local and global actors.

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1The case of shrimps from Madagascar is particularly relevant to the concept of glocal because of the extensive interplay among both local and global actors along the value seafood chain. Related to this, concepts such as globalization and glocalisation form the basis for empirical research in the industry. This study attaches the term local to the national level, which is rarely done within the local food literature. The local production system therefore is larger and encloses a number of companies and production sites. Nevertheless, this local production system is governed and conditioned by the same national seafood authorities and in consequence constitutes a degree of homogeneity. From the perspective of the French consumer, Madagascar is a pertinent geographical level with respect to perceptions of seafood products.

2The global perspective is highly relevant when dealing with seafood since international trade is vital to this industry in many supplier countries. Local production systems are rarely self-sufficient, but are frequently dependent on expertise, business partners, financial resources, market actors, certifying bodies and consumers that are localised outside the local production system. One pertinent example is the interplay between French producers of local food and French supermarket (global) through the private labels: Filière Qualité, Reflets de France (Carrefour) and Nos régions ont du talent (Leclerc). The interaction and interplay between local food systems and external actors and forces (whether they are regional, national or global) could represent a fruitful avenue of research. These perspectives are highly relevant and complementary to explain the phenomenon of local food.

Sustainable seafood – an important market trend

3In today’s food markets ideas of ecological production, biodiversity, environmental preservation and customer protection represent an important trend. With regard to ecological seafood the offer still represents a small section and is limited to aquaculture products. The official recognition through quality labels and certification processes of ecological farmed seafood is as also in its early beginning. Great challenges are also connected to the certification of wild caught seafood as it is virtually impossible to manage the whole life cycle of fish species caught in the wild. With regard to quality labels and certification processes of seafood it is therefore difficult in order to complete a quality schedule (Produits de la Mer, 2006). Some seafood supplier countries have however made a huge effort to develop sustainable seafood, such as the island nation of Madagascar.

Local strategy of sustainable seafood production

4With respect to the development of sustainable seafood Madagascar has been a pioneer (Produits de la Mer, 2005). National Malagasy authorities have initiated and maintained a long term strategy of developing sustainable seafood. The strategic initiative and control therefore has been locally based, although foreign or global actors have been highly involved in the process. The island has developed a sustainable seafood business of farming and catching mainly related to shrimps. Due to strictly durable harvesting, production has reached stability around 8-9,000 tons of shrimps and prawns annually. The production of farmed shrimps is around 8,000 tons. A major purpose of the seafood farming industry in Madagascar has been to avoid problems connected to intensive farming which have ruined natural resources for wild seafood around farms in Asia (Produits de la Mer, 2005). The Malagasy state insists for instance that the mangroves around aquaculture areas should not be deforested as in other regions of the world. The shrimp is farmed in a natural environment without additives or colouring and with complete traceability in the value chain. Long-term development and investment in high quality shrimp farming has resulted in a high quality shrimp product that enjoys market success. Success is also due to the extensive interplay among numerous actors along the value chain.

The interplay of local and global actors in farming and fishing

5The Malagasy authorities have long term strategies both in seafood farming and fishing and focus on high-quality products and sustainability (Produits de la Mer, 2005). With regard to economic development in the seafood sector, Malagasy authorities, such as the Ministry of Agriculture And Fishing, define strategies and set conditions for the trade. Because of changes in the Law of the Sea, increased power and the control of fishing resources transferred to coastal countries such as Madagascar. Nevertheless Madagascar government encourages foreign cooperation and direct investment as long as the foreign business actors operate within the set conditions. The Malagasy authorities have succeeded in attracting foreign business actors with a long term horizon and with an interest in sustainable farming and fisheries in the seafood sector. Therefore it seems that the local has the power to define the strategy and conditions to economic growth in this specific case.

6A number of French business actors have been involved in the seafood sector of Madagascar for several decades. Although, these companies are French based they operate globally and therefore we term them global actors. The majority of these actors are French based seafood businesses. The long term collaboration between the two countries of France and Madagascar can partly be explained by the fact that Madagascar was a French colony, and the two countries are members of a family of postcolonial nations, La Francophonie. Shared cultural identities and interests typically exist among nations in La Francophonie and these facilitate communication and cooperation in business exchange (Wendt, 1994; Brysk et al., 2002). Some of the shrimp projects emphasize the human societal aspects of development equally with economic benefits and include schemes to build schools (including French schools) and health centres, which also provides alternative income for fishermen during low season (Produits de la Mer, 2005). Of great importance as well are the commercial interests of France as an importer of high quality seafood. Through long term partnerships and direct investments in the Malagasy seafood sector French business actors contribute to develop high quality seafood adapted to the French market (Box 1).

Box 1: Foreign business actors and their involvement through investments and partnerships

The group Unima France and Somapêche are involved (investments) in industrial fishing of wild shrimps (Pêcheries de Nossi-Bé). They are recently engaged in the process to obtain ecological certification of the fisheries.

Unima France involved in shrimp farming (owner of the brand Royalmar Madagascar). Unima France is a totally vertically integrated company and controls 60 % of the Madagascar seafood sector.

OSO1 (Overseas seafood Operations) involved in farming (Royal Madagascar Gambas farming with LGA (les Gambas de l’Ankarana) and industrial fishing (PMM, Les Pêcheries du Ménabé et du Melaky). OSO is a totally vertically integrated company.

TCC is a business involved in shrimp cooking and has been involved in business partnerships with Malagasy seafood actors since 1966.

Carrefour and Marks & Spencer - Have approved seafood products from the seafood processing factory of Ménabé and Melaky (PMM) which is a filial of the group OSO

Global versus local brands

7Branding is a central issue in the marketing of seafood products (Box 2). The strength of local brands versus global brands is discussed in the literature. The choice of the brand is a strategic issue to businesses all over the world and in particular, when the product is sold in foreign markets. At a time when product differentiation is difficult to achieve, strong brands are seen as crucial assets to differentiate products (Lewis, 1999; Schuiling and Kapferer, 2004). In this regard business actors may consider international or local brands. In the marketing field there has been an ongoing debate on globalization and its consequences for local versus global brands. Levitt’s (1983) predicted the great advantages of the global brand in his paper on ‘the globalisation of markets’. Lately however, marketers have suggested solutions such as selective globalisation and the post-global brand in order to take into account national differences and preferences (Kapferer 2005). It is argued as well that the prediction of globalization of production is distinct to the globalization potential of brands and products. The highly optimistic forecast of the global standardized product and global brand has perhaps some limitations.

8The choice of using local brands can represent a strategic advantage to international brands (Lewis, 1999; Schuiling and Kapferer, 2004). By local brands we refer to brands that exist in one country or within a limited geographical area (Schuiling and Kapferer, 2004). A central argument for using local brands is the possibility for fast entry into new markets. When using a local brand, less investment is required compared to introducing an unknown, foreign brand. Further, strong local brands benefit from high awareness and brand equity. Additionally, local brands develop close relationships with consumers over time, which leads to a high level of trust in the brand. Equally there are some disadvantages related to using local brands, such as problems to generate significant economies of scale in the product or marketing areas.

Box 2: Global (French actors) involved in branding and labelling

Carrefour in association with Unima France has approved to market the wild caught shrimp of Madagascar under their private label Silver Sea. This is the first time a supermarket chain label frozen shrimps.

Saveurs de l’année (Flavour of the Year) – Independent institute of quality created in 1997 of the restaurant owner Willy Mansion which organize an extensive and methodically consumer tasting of food products. Awards are given to high quality products each year. In 2006 fifteen seafood products were awarded. This award is highly recognized by supermarket chains and by consumers. Moreover it is viewed as interesting by small and medium sized manufacturers as a means to launch new products. The shrimp of Madagascar (P.monodon) was a winner in 2004 and 2006.

The French ministry of agriculture – certifying body of quality labels (Label Rouge, Agriculture (aquaculture) Biologique) in cooperation with the Bureau Véritas and its filial Qualité France and the business actors: LGA (Les Gambas de l’Ankarana) a company in the group OSO is in the process to certify farmed shrimps under the label “Bio”2, and Aqualma (group Unima) obtained the certification Label Rouge for farmed shrimps.

Marine Stewardship Council and WWF (World Wildlife Fund) - in cooperation with groups of aquaculture and fisheries are in the process of obtaining a certification of sustainable practices in the fisheries. Sustainable practices, such as the protection of turtles and by-catch reduction device have been approved among some groups of fisheries (GAPCM; Groupement des aquaculteurs et pêcheurs de crevettes de Madagascar)


9The above presentation and discussion illustrates an economic development initiated and defined by national authorities of Madagascar to promote quality and sustainability on the global seafood market and to guarantee decent livelihoods for fishermen and their families. As explained earlier, the change of the Law of the Sea increased the power and control of national states to set parameters for harvesting natural fish resources. Therefore, in this specific case and with regard to fisheries nations worldwide, the potential of local-national power and control is present. However, the long term strategy and the political philosophy of Malagasy authorities are exceptional compared to other seafood nations that have not been able and willing to define and manage a strictly regulated seafood industry. Madagascar has succeeded in attracting foreign investors with compatible interests and willingness to enter a supply chain concerned with environment and livelihoods as well as profit. This unique industry development owes much to the pre-existing cultural understanding and shared language between the producing country and main consumer market. Involved actors have stated that the success of the Madagascar shrimp is due to the close relationship that unites the two countries, and the high quality image of Madagascar shrimps among French consumers3.

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BRYSK, A., PARSON, C. and SANDHOLTZ, 2002. “After Empire: National identity and post-colonial families of nations.” European Journal of International Relations. 8 (2): 267-305.

KAPFERER, J-N, 2005. “The Post-global brand.” Brand Management June 12 (5): 319-324.

LEVITT, T. 1983. “The globalization of markets.” Harvard Business Review 61: 92-102.

LEWIS, C. 1999. “National expansion of British regional brands: parallels with internationalisation.” Journal of Product & Brand Management 8 (5) 369-386.

Produits de la Mer 2005. August-September 92; October-November 93.

Produits de la Mer 2006. December-January 94; February-March 95.

SCHUILING, I. and KAPFERER, J-N. 2004. “Executive Insights: Real differences between Local and International Brands: Strategic implications for international marketers.” Journal of International Marketing 12 (4) 97-112.

WENDT, A., 1994. “Collective identity formation and the international state.” American Political Science Review June 88: 2.

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1 Monaco-based company
2 “Crevettes issues de l’agriculture Biologique”
3 In French: “Une position qui s’explique par les liens étroits unissant nos deux pays et la bonne image de la crevette malgache auprès du consommateur” (Produits de la Mer, 2004).
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Electronic reference

Inger Beate Pettersen, « The concept of glocal seafood: a case study of Madagascar shrimps », Anthropology of food [Online], S2 | March 2007, Online since 01 June 2007, connection on 04 October 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Inger Beate Pettersen

SNF Institute for Research in Economics and Business Administration, Bergen, Norway

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Licence Creative Commons
Anthropologie of food est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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