Jul 1, 2020

What Seafood Consumers Want: A Complete Guide

2020 Alaska Seafood Processing List of Resources Blog Image

As an Alaska Seafood or Aquaculture Processor, you’re a key player in bridging the gap between fishermen/fish farming and consumers. After you get your supply, it’s your job to process and sell your seafood to distributors, grocery stores, restaurants, or even directly to the consumer. That means, what they want should be what you want to give them – because they drive your sales. So, if you want to beat the competition, you need to know what your consumer wants. And seafood consumers want trustworthy sustainability, affordable prices, healthy and high quality options, and more knowledge.

Trustworthy Sustainability

Consumers care about the ocean and protecting seafood for future generations. And, based on a GlobeScan survey commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 2018 of over 25,000 consumers in 22 countries, seafood consumers’ top concerns regarding the ocean are pollution and overfishing. As such, supporting sustainable practices is top of mind when consumers are choosing which seafood to buy. To meet this consumer demand, not only do you have to adhere to sustainable practices, you need to make sure consumers know it. But it turns out they probably won’t trust you because they trust certification bodies more than government and business. Consumers are becoming savvier about on-package claims as evidenced by the above survey which found that “consumers believe supermarkets’ and brands’ claims about sustainability should be clearly labeled by an independent organization. Consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical and understand that self-made claims are unreliable and untrustworthy. By having a program with independent, third-party verification, like MSC, consumers can place more trust in the product.” While the majority of seafood consumers do want your seafood to be labeled by a trustworthy, independent third-party as being sustainable, they still want to hear from you about your sustainable practices as the survey found 70% of seafood consumers in North America want to hear more from companies about the sustainability of their seafood. Do these things and according to a Nielsen study from 2016, you could outperform your competition by 4%. If you don’t, you face the risk of consumers choosing to your more sustainable competitor as 68% of surveyed households were adamant that consumers should be prepared to switch to more sustainable seafood moving forward. You also run the risk of grocery stores going elsewhere for their supply of seafood as according to Megan Rider, domestic marketing director of the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood and Marketing Institute (ASMI), “Chains like Whole Foods, Publix and the Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, among others, are committed to sourcing sustainable seafood, much of it from Alaska’s waters.” And it’s not just wild fish that consumers are paying attention to, seafood consumers also have sustainability demands for farmed fish. Another GlobeScan global survey of over 7,000 seafood consumers on behalf of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), found that 63% of seafood consumers want to use their purchasing decisions to reward responsible seafood farmers and 84% have trust in the ASC label.

By the way, what exactly is sustainable seafood? According to Oceanic Society, sustainable seafood is “seafood that is caught or farmed (also called aquaculture) with minimal environmental and social impacts. When done correctly, sustainable seafood sourcing prevents overfishing, minimizes incidental impacts to other ocean wildlife and habitats, identifies and protects essential fish habitats, and takes into account the social and economic impacts on the communities from which the seafood is sourced.”

Affordable Prices

While seafood consumers care about the sustainability of the products they’re purchasing, they care about the price tag more. In fact, according to a recent Food Marketing Institute report, seafood purchases are often impulse buys and 65% of consumers’ motivation to impulsively buy seafood comes from the price or the fact that the seafood was on sale.

Healthy & High Quality Options

Quality is actually the highest priority for seafood consumers as they decide which seafood to purchase, followed by freshness, taste and flavor. In fact, 67% of consumers are interested in seafood’s freshness or quality. Similar to these quality concerns, seafood consumers care about the health benefits of eating seafood. In fact, in a survey of 313 people by Blue Circle Foods, 83% of respondents said their children enjoy products such as prepared fish and other seafood. This eating habit may be due in part to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children and pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat one to two servings of fish weekly, citing that seafood provides protein, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Not surprisingly, this same surveyed group of seafood consumers believe fish and other seafood are healthier than pork and beef. Similarly, according to Cargill’s 2018 Feed4Thought survey, 44% of U.S. and U.K. consumers have added more fish to their diets in the past five years with health reasons being the main motivation. Therefore, in addition to focusing on sustainability and price, “emphasizing the protein, vitamins, and minerals fish provide” can be an added strategy to appeal to seafood consumers.

More Knowledge

Finally, seafood consumers want to know more. Yes, seafood consumer want transparency into its sustainability but more want to know where it’s from and preparation advice, with the FMI finding that 26%, 49% and 44% of consumers want information on seafood’s sustainability, source and preparation respectively. Moreover, the FMI found that consumers want to know more about seafood in general as only 29% reported thinking they know how to buy it and only 28% reported knowing how to cook it. Additionally, 48% of consumers said there isn’t enough information on seafood available. Clearly, when it comes to this demand, providing transparency and communication is key.

With NorthScope, we want to help you succeed. Book a free demo to see how NorthScope can help you provide transparency to your customers and help you make informed business decisions.