New survey shows little consumer preference between farmed and wild seafood

More than half of seafood consumers in key markets don’t have a preference between wild and farmed fish, but they do want products that take a responsible approach to protecting both planet and people, a new survey conducted on behalf of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) found.

Carried out by market researcher GlobeScan, the ASC’s survey questioned more than 7,000 seafood eaters across Germany, France, The Netherlands, China, Japan, Canada, and the United States. It learned that while there were strong variations between countries in terms of seafood consumption and frequency, there was “generally high” support around the world for better protection of the environment and workers when it comes to food production. 

In the survey, 63 percent of respondents called for “radical” or “significant” change to feed the world’s growing population.

Drilling down into the consumer responses, ASC highlighted that 65 percent had agreed that in order to save the oceans, we should only consume seafood from sustainable sources. Similarly, 63 percent want to use their purchase decisions to reward responsible farmers, and 63 percent also want to hear more from companies about the sustainability of their products.

The NGO told SeafoodSource this all suggests that a lot of consumers want to purchase more responsibly produced seafood, and therefore one of the changes they want to see is more choices in the marketplace and more information about the products they can choose from.

“Seafood seems to be seen as part of the solution to a lot of people around the world – 40 percent thought that we should be eating more or significantly more farmed seafood, for example, with a further 36 percent saying we should be eating the same amount,” ASC spokesperson Jack Cutforth said. “For comparison, 52 percent said that we should be eating less red meat, and only 13 percent think we should be eating more of it.”

Another major finding from the survey is that there is a significant desire for more information about sustainability and independent verification of brands’ sustainability claims. Across the seven countries, 71 percent of seafood consumers said that supermarkets’ or brands’ claims about sustainability should be clearly labeled by an independent organization, with 84 percent saying they would have trust in the ASC label. Some 63 percent also said they wanted to hear more from brands about the sustainability of their products. 

At the same time, 62 percent want to shop at a place with lots of responsibly produced seafood, and 69 percent said that it is important that workers in the industry are fairly treated. 

The survey also learned that 51 percent of consumers don’t have a preference between wild and farmed fish. Similarly, 69 percent either purchase a mix of farmed and wild fish or are unaware of whether their fish is farmed or wild. Of the rest, 14 percent said they usually bought farmed and 17 percent purchased wild.

Of those who expressed a preference for farmed fish, the top reason – chosen by 29 percent of consumers – said their purchasing decision helps to preserve wild stocks. 

Cutforth said the ASC plans to use the survey data to determine how to match those customer desires.

“We want to help consumers reward responsible producers by looking out for the ASC logo – which is why it’s great to know that so many seafood consumers want to reward responsible producers, and so many also want independent verification of sustainability claims,” Cutforth said. “So finding out consumer perceptions is vitally important to us. We will use these insights to ensure we continue to offer market value to our partners, and work with our partners to ensure we continue to provide the right level of assurance and trust to consumers.”

Meanwhile, in a wider ASC survey of 10,000 general consumers in the same markets, it was found that more Canadians and Americans expressed a love of seafood (31 percent and 28 percent, respectively), than consumers in China and Japan (24 percent and 21 percent, respectively). However, Chinese and Japanese consumers were the most likely to say that they consumed seafood every day (16 percent and 14 percent, respectively), compared to a global average of 6 percent.

This suggests that in these countries, seafood is seen as a normal part of an everyday diet, whereas in Canada and the United States, it is seen more as an occasional treat, said ASC.

The ASC added that overall the survey alludes to an enduring popularity for seafood, with 78 percent of general consumers saying they had purchased seafood in the past two months. 

According to ASC’s latest Certification Update, it has certified 1,134 farm sites, with another 273 in assessment. In volume terms, more than 1.9 million metric tons (MT) of farmed seafood is now ASC-certified. 

Photo courtesy of klikkipetra/SeafoodSource 


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