Fresh fish still has a loyal following but price rises have put some customers off, and product innovation is needed to win younger customers, say researchers.

Seafood snacks ‘are a way into the youth market’

Convenience is key to winning new customers, say researchers


Key sales opportunities for Scottish seafood producers lie in the youth market, and innovative snacking or convenience products, market researchers say.

Research by The Knowledge Bank, the market insight service for the Scottish food and drink sector, also shows that consumers are more likely to buy a seafood product labelled as ‘from Scotland’, and that salmon retains nearly half of Britain’s seafood market, despite being hit hardest by inflation.

Younger consumers are less likely to buy seafood products but are also more health-conscious, with a desire to eat high protein and low-calorie foods – something that seafood offers in abundance. The research shows that targeting this sector with inspirational recipes and new convenience products could turn the tide for the market.

Positive signs

“Our research indicates that, while the seafood market has been suffering from the effects of inflation, there are positive signs it remains resilient despite the challenges,” said Carol Saunders, head of insights at The Knowledge Bank.

“Affordable alternatives have come to the fore, while discounters and brands have seen successes in certain markets.

“The challenge for companies now is to engage with the younger demographic, capitalising on snacking culture to develop new seafood products that harness the potential of this growing market.”

Frozen prawns

Sales of frozen fish such as cod, pollock, and prawns, which are cheaper than fresh fish, have proved to be resilient but salmon, which accounts for nearly 50% of all fresh fish sales in Britain, has been seen to be sensitive to price rises.

At £19.64 per kg (+14.1% increase year on year) in the shops, fresh salmon remains one of the most expensive fresh fish species in Britain and this has had a negative impact on the volume sold.

The good news is that when consumers do choose salmon, 75% say they are more likely to buy salmon labelled as being from Scotland.

'Scottish salmon leads'

James Park, head of insights at sector trade body Salmon Scotland, said salmon continues to be Britain’s most popular fish, with sales worth five times as much as the next most popular species, cod.

James Park: "Scottish salmon leads all others when people are asked to rank the benefits of seafood."

“When it comes to awareness of Scotland’s food and drink offer, the quality, taste and provenance of fresh and smoked Scottish salmon made consumers more likely to purchase salmon than any other locally produced food and drink,” said Park.

“Scottish salmon leads all others when people are asked to rank the benefits of seafood. Higher global food standards and the significant economic and jobs contribution Scottish salmon makes to Scotland are particularly noteworthy.

“Customers can enjoy Scottish salmon in the knowledge that we have world-leading sustainability measures in place from egg to plate, producing nutritious food in the most responsible way.”

Single servings

The Knowledge Bank says that a potential gap in the market has been highlighted by recent successes of meat snacking brands such as jerky, and single serve or convenience packaging. These products have seen an exponential growth, more than doubling in sales value since 2016 (£128m to £281.5m). Innovative seafood producers are pursuing similar successes, as these products perform well with younger consumers and impulse buyers while offering the same high protein and low-calorie benefits.

Donna Fordyce, chief executive of marketing organisation Seafood Scotland, said: “While challenges remain, it is clear there are pockets of opportunity for producers, particularly with younger consumers.

“Indeed, our current campaign to introduce school children to tasty seafood dishes is designed to address this opportunity, inspiring young people and their families to try simple recipes at home.”

Impacts of inflation

Carol Saunders concluded: “The data shows that British consumers still have a strong appetite for seafood. While inflation has undoubtedly had an impact on volume sales, there are signs for positivity as well.

“Innovation will prove key going forward, while harnessing the market potential of younger consumers could be vital in changing attitudes towards seafood products in the future.”

The research can be viewed in full by signing up for full access to The Knowledge Bank’s resources here.