French consumers benefitted from a dedicated Sustainable Fish Week (“La Semaine de la Pêche Responsible”) at the end of February, organized by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) in partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
The aim was to highlight how choosing ASC and MSC certified seafood gives people a quick and simple way to buy products that help to protect our oceans and environment and supports the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen, and their communities, according to Anne-Marie Kats, ASC’s commercial marketing manager for the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
“Sustainable Fish Week was designed to reinforce messages from our inaugural event in 2017, and included in-store promotions, competitions, a widely distributed seafood newspaper, and a social media campaign,” she said.
This year the two organizations also teamed up with aquariums and oceanographic institutes, who highlighted to the general public, the diversity of aquatic species, and the importance of preserving them.
“The majority of national supermarket chains and some seafood brands joined the celebration across France, creating eye-catching in-store marketing materials which made it easy for consumers to understand how to make a responsible seafood choice,” Kats said.
Lidl France focused on getting the message across via social media and made its own version of the campaign animation video. In the video, which achieved well over one million hits during the week. The company announced further commitments to responsible fishing and sustainability, including certifying 75 percent of its fresh fish with the MSC standard and increasing the range of its ASC-certified products during 2018.
Not to be outdone, retail chain Carrefour announced a major advance in promising 100 percent of its fresh fish sold at counters in their hypermarkets will soon be MSC- or ASC-certified. And, in a family-oriented promotion, Picard hosted children’s drawing competition, set up by MSC and ASC, in 1,000 of its shops. The contest invited children to draw their favorite marine animal for a chance to win a stuffed animal version of their creation.
At a well-attended “Sea to Plate" public conference in Paris, in conjunction with the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco, representatives from Carrefour and Euronor spoke about their companies’ commitments to preserving aquatic resources. They explained how their organizations contribute on a daily basis to driving best practice and sustainable development through the fish supply chain.
“Thanks to the support and efforts of our partners, the ASC is having a real impact. The number of ASC-labeled products on the French market has increased by an impressive 65 percent over the last year and, as more people understand the positives of seeking out the label, we hope to see further growth,” Kats said. “We hope that our campaign will have gone some way towards informing the French public that there is a wealth of different sustainable seafood available, and that by highlighting certified species and products, we can start to make a real difference to buying habits.With 64 million inhabitants and a per capital annual seafood consumption of 34.5 kilograms – well above the European average of 25.5 kilograms – France is an attractive market for seafood exporters.
A 2017 market report by the United States Department of Agriculture found that France is currently the largest seafood market by value in the EU28, with sales of USD 5.5 billion (EUR 4.5 billion). It predicted that French demand for seafood will continue to outpace local production and that imports of seafood will grow. The country is a net importer of seafood products, with domestic production representing only twenty percent of consumer demand.
The news for seafood imports into France is not all positive. France AgriMer reported in 2017 that overall sales of seafood in France had decreased steadily over six years, with purchases in 2016 down 10 percent from 2010. But in the same period, the value of seafood purchases and imports reached an eight-year high of EUR 7.1 billion (USD 8.7 billion). The sector driving value for the industry is ready-prepared products, which showed substantial growth, rising by 10 percent in volume in six years and increasing by 29 percent in value. Sales of fresh and frozen seafood declined by 13 percent and 17 percent in volume, respectively, in the same period, with the fresh sector increasing in value by six percent.
Increases in value were seen particularly in the delicatessen category (up 29 percent), followed by canned (up six percent), and fresh categories (also up by six percent). Frozen seafood experienced the worst performance, with a decline of seven percent in value and 17 percent in volume.
Seafood spreadables such as taramasalata and seafood salads were amongst the highest performers in the delicatessen category, selling into the growing appetizer market. The sushi sector also performed well, with a decline in average price in 2016 driving up demand.
According to AgriMer, the top seven species currently eaten in France are canned tuna, salmon, mussels, cod, shrimp, oysters, and sole, in that order.