Global consumers favor pricing over sustainability, MSC finds

A majority of consumers globally say that price is more important than sustainability when making their seafood purchasing decisions, according to a new survey from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The recent MSC consumer survey, conducted by GlobeScan, included more than 25,000 participants across 22 countries. There were some key shifts in the findings of the latest survey compared to the first study of its kind, which MSC conducted in 2016, according to the certifier. 

“A notable change from the first study in 2016 is that consumers globally have started putting price before sustainability as a motivator of their seafood purchase decisions,” MSC said in a press release. 

Demographically speaking, men are more motivated by price than women, the survey found, while women say sustainability is more important to them. However, consumers in some countries - Germany, Austria, China, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy, and Sweden - still place sustainability above price, regardless of their age or gender.

A majority of consumers (72 percent) want independent verification of sustainability claims in supermarkets, the survey noted, an increase over 2016, when this was important to 68 percent of those surveyed. 

Additionally, 70 percent of seafood consumers said they would like to hear more from companies about the sustainability of their seafood. A separate 2016 study from Nielsen also found that companies that invest in independent labelling and do effective consumer communications outperform their competitors by 4 percent, according to MSC.

Seventy-two percent of seafood consumers also agree that, in order to save the oceans, people must eat seafood from sustainable sources. More consumers also believe that people should be prepared to switch to another type of fish if it is more sustainable (70 percent in 2018, up from 68 percent in 2016). 

And 83 percent of seafood consumers globally agree that people need to protect seafood for future generations.

"This survey shows that consumers really do care about the oceans, but with so much confusion about how consumers can help, it’s more important than ever to cut through the clutter and deliver an easy way for people to choose sustainable seafood,” said Richard Stobart, head of marketing for MSC. “With a rising consumer focus on price, and the finding that worldwide more than half of consumers report eating seafood weekly, it is critically important that they have a range of clearly-labeled sustainable options at the right price point.”

The biggest threat to the oceans is pollution, followed by overfishing, according to the consumers surveyed. Younger consumers (18 to 34 years old) eat less seafood on average than their older counterparts, and are more worried about the effects of climate change on the oceans.

Trust in the MSC label remains high at 69 percent, according to MSC. Understanding of the label has increased to 37 percent globally, up from 32 percent in 2016. 

“Younger consumers are even more tuned in to choosing sustainable seafood, with 41 percent of 18- to 34-year olds understanding what the MSC label means,” MSC said.

Consumers believe that NGOs are the most helpful in protecting the oceans, followed by scientists and certification organizations. Governments and large companies contribute the least to protecting the oceans, according to the consumers surveyed.


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