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Health is the main reason we buy seafood, survey shows

The level of trust in the ASC logo varies from 68% in France to 90% in Japan. Illustration: ASC.
The level of trust in the ASC logo varies from 68% in France to 90% in Japan. Illustration: ASC.

Health is the primary driver for consumers buying seafood, a survey of more than 12,000 people has discovered.

The research by certification organisation the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) was carried out in 12 countries and is its most comprehensive study to date.

More than 80% of consumers interviewed agree that including fish in their daily shopping is important for health reasons. That trend is highest in Spain, with almost full consensus (96%), and lowest in the Netherlands – still with a strong consensus of 80%. However, consumers also love seafood for its taste, which was the second mention, and see it as a pivotal part of a well-balanced diet.

Click image to enlarge. Illustration: ASC.
Click image to enlarge. Illustration: ASC.

More to be done

The research shows that most consumers– between 75% and 89% depending on market– believe the seafood industry has the potential to be sustainable and responsible, showing the potential of seafood as an environmentally-friendly source of animal protein.

However, this potential is not yet fully realised: more than half do not perceive it to be sustainable right now. Consumers in the countries that have stronger sustainability sensibility – the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France – tend to think the seafood industry is less sustainable and less responsible than consumers in other countries.

While consumers are not satisfied with the current level of sustainability of the seafood industry, they largely agree that they can play a part in its improvement. Between three and four out of five respondents state that buying responsible seafood has a positive effect on oceans.

Click image to enlarge. Illustration: ASC.
Click image to enlarge. Illustration: ASC.

Labels matter

The importance of certification schemes to drive forward the sustainability of the seafood industry becomes clear in the research, said the ASC. Consumers’ most trusted sources of information about seafood sustainability and responsibility are independent certification schemes that put their labels on seafood packaging – more than environmental organisations, seafood brands, retail brands or other sources.

For farmed seafood, ASC is the most recognised certification scheme, with the highest awareness in the Netherlands where two-thirds of respondents recognise the ASC label, followed by Belgium (60%), Germany (58%), France (48%) and the United States (46%).

Research also shows that trust in the ASC label is generally high – with trust figures ranging from 68% in France to 80% and above in Italy, the UK, the US, and Australia. Additionally, the majority associate the ASC logo with sustainability and responsibility.

Freshness and cost

The research also reveals that while sustainability is a top consideration in seafood purchases, freshness and cost are the two highest considerations for consumers when asked, unprompted, what their requirements are when buying seafood. Sustainability is the third most common requirement.

When asked if they prefer wild or farmed seafood, consumers have a preference for wild, especially in Spain and France. However, an almost equivalent number of consumers have no preference between wild or farmed – seen especially in Japan, as well as Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. The survey also reveals that more information is needed to alleviate concerns and misconceptions of consumers about farmed seafood.

Second wave

The research completed most recently is the second wave of a biennial, multi-market, quantitative study. The fieldwork for it was conducted between 23 December 2021 and 24 January 2022 via online consumer panels. 

Approximately 1,000 consumers were surveyed in each country – the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, China, and Japan.

The ASC is the preferred certification label of the world’s largest Atlantic salmon farmer, Mowi, which has 22 ASC-certified freshwater and marine sites in Scotland, eight in British Columbia, Canada, 75 in Norway, 17 in Chile, six in Ireland, and two in the Faroe Islands.

Scottish Sea Farms recently received its first ASC farm certification for its Summer Isles operation, which comprises three sites.