People in P.E.I.'s oyster industry are hoping a new interactive map of the Island will encourage consumers to click — and slurp — more of their product.
The Food Island Partnership launched the new map and guide this week, featuring 10 oyster growing areas around the Island.
"We really wanted to highlight our amazing fishers on the Island," said Crystal MacGregor, director of communications and marketing for the Food Island Partnership.
"We know that consumers really want to connect with their product, and know where it comes from, and have transparency of ingredients."
"You can actually click on a region and you can learn about the merroir, the flavour, and what impacts the oysters. As well, you can see the place that the oysters come from, as well as the processors who process them to get them to your door."
The Social Shell social media groups and website highlight both oysters and mussels, said MacGregor.
She said one of the goals is to create an oyster-tasting culture, similar to wine tasting.
"Just like sommeliers with wine, on the oyster map we talk about a merroir, which is the pristine waters around the Island which can really impact the taste," MacGregor said.
"Many different things can impact the flavour of an oyster, from how mature the oyster is, the region that it's grown in, even the time of year can really impact that taste of the oyster."
MacGregor said the idea for the interactive map grew out of a campaign to help the industry recover from the pandemic.
"That started back in 2021, and we have over 20,000 people in our social community on Facebook and Instagram that are interacting with us," MacGregor said.
"We have chefs, experts, oyster aficionados and consumers who are just looking at new ways and education about oysters on the Island."
You can click on it and know exactly where your oyster came from.
— Crystal MacGregor, Food Island Partnership
MacGregor said the map will be featured at the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival in Charlottetown, where people will be able to pick up coasters with QR codes to take them to the map.
"In the future, we hope to have QR codes on tables at restaurants everywhere so you can click on it and know exactly where your oyster came from," MacGregor said.
"I could definitely see some operators here in the tourism industry picking that up and doing Island tours."
The map was created with funding from Innovation P.E.I., ACOA, and the Department of Fisheries and Communities, and they will all be watching to see the uptake from consumers.
"We will do it anecdotally, talking to our processors and fishers here on the Island," MacGregor said.
"Also, checking out consumer traffic back to our website, and seeing if they're clicking on the oyster mapping guide."
Martin O'Brien, owner of Cascumpec Bay Oyster Co, said he thinks the map will be of interest for many oyster enthusiasts, from connoisseurs, to shuckers, to home consumers.
"You get that in other areas, like wine or or beer, where people just they want to know all the details, and it's great because there's lots of details to give, a lot of interesting things," O'Brien said.
"Maybe us in the industry don't think it's as interesting, but it's really interesting for people who are in cities to learn all these reasons why oysters have certain flavours, or grow certain ways."
"I'll be interested next year to see, because we do have a small retail store here, to talk to people and ask how did you find us?" O'Brien said.
"Was it through the map, or was it through some other way? Sometimes it's just word of mouth too."