Growing consumer awareness of issues related to overfishing and ocean health is fueling demand for sustainable fish and seafood. However, a recent survey by Blue Circle Foods revealed that consumers are conflicted about seafood options. While they are concerned about sourcing and prefer to buy certified sustainable seafood, pricing is a dominant factor in their purchasing decisions. Educating shoppers about the benefits of supporting responsible practices is key to increasing sales.
According to Coherent Market Insights, by 2025 the global sustainable seafood market will be over US $18.63 billion. With a growing dependency on seafood for economic and health reasons, and more than 50% of global seafood consumption sourced via aquaculture, there is a pressing need to use responsible methods to source fish for consumption, protect ocean ecosystems and preserve wild fish populations.
Data from Blue Circle Foods’ Sept 2019 survey shows overwhelming consumer concern about contaminants, ocean pollution and overfishing, highlighting an opportunity for retailers to meet seafood demand with responsibly raised options.
Identifying key insights about purchasing habits, the survey polled 300 US consumers. 78% of respondents had purchased fish or seafood at least once in the previous month. Data revealed that shoppers think fish and seafood are more sustainable, and healthier than land-based pork, beef and grains, and just as healthy as vegetables. 84% believe fish and other seafood to be an important part of a balanced diet.
What concerns shoppers most?
90% of shoppers are concerned about contaminants like mercury in fish and seafood
88% are concerned about ocean pollution
86% are worried about the extinction of wild fish species
83% are concerned about seafood mislabeling
Price dominated the list of ranked attributes that affect purchasing decisions, but shoppers clearly indicated that where seafood is sourced from, and whether it contains contaminants such as mercury and PCBs, are critical concerns.
The concerns mirrored those identified by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which suggest that fears over methylmercury pollution have led to a decline in U.S. families feeding fish to children. This insight highlights an opportunity for producers and retailers to engage with parents by presenting the nutritional and long-term environmental benefits of purchasing sustainable fish and seafood for their families.
The AAP recommends that children, pregnant and breastfeeding women eat 1-2 servings of fish per week, with sustainably caught or raised fish and shellfish offering the best choices. Despite concerns about a decline in childhood fish consumption, the Blue Circle Foods survey revealed positive attitudes towards seafood:
47% of shoppers had offered their children seafood by age five.
82% of children had eaten fish or seafood by age ten or earlier.
83% of shoppers agreed that their children enjoyed eating fish and other seafood.
72% of shoppers believe that their children are eating enough fish and seafood.
Meeting the need for families to increase sustainable seafood consumption, Blue Circle recently introduced Happy Fish™, a fish-shaped frozen bite containing just three ingredients – Atlantic Salmon or cod, pepper and salt. The salmon in this non-breaded option is certified by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which offers a Guide to Sustainable Seafood app, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and Ocean Wise. Like all Blue Circle products, Happy Fish is free of antibiotics, added hormones, gluten, sugar and GMOs.
Blue Circle’s pioneering Norwegian fish farmers utilize responsible practices that include low density pens, and a commitment to raising fish without chemicals or synthetic pigments. With a focus on conservation and reducing environmental contaminants, they have developed an innovative farmed fish feed that preserves wild fish stocks and results in cleaner, more nutritious, sustainable salmon.
“Understanding what concerns shoppers and providing them with viable options that address their needs from a nutritional, environmental and pricing standpoint are critical to our success as a brand,” says Nina Damato, Product Director for Blue Circle Foods. “We supply fresh and frozen seafood to retailers and foodservice operators in the U.S., and we believe educating consumers about the need for certified seafood produced with total transparency and traceability, will propel growth within the seafood market.”
Ultimately, with producers and retailers working together to make it easier for consumers to purchase sustainable seafood, the preservation of marine ecosystems becomes an achievable outcome. Educational programs that inspire consumers to understand their role in supporting responsible seafood practices is the engine that will drive sales at the retail level.