Millennials, Gen Z driving sustainable seafood purchasing shift

As younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers get older, seafood sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the marketplace.

According to survey data from GlobeScan shared during a panel at Seafood Expo North America Reconnect this week, a key trend among seafood purchasing is emerging.

Since 1999, GlobeScan CEO Chris Coulter said, the company has asked a simple question during its surveys of thousands of consumers worldwide: "Do consumers choose to reward companies that show they are responsible?"

The percentage of those surveyed who responded positively to that query has remained relatively flat over the years – from 1999 through 2017, roughly 20 percent of consumers said they would consider rewarding companies that they see as “socially responsible.” But, according to survey data in 2020, that number has jumped to 38 percent, Coulter said during SENA Reconnect's “What will the future hold for the conscious seafood consumer?” session. 

“There are very significant attitude shifts for consumers across the world,” Coulter said. “We’re teetering toward something significant when it comes to consumer reaction in the marketplace when it comes to sustainability.”

For the companies selling seafood, the desire to reward companies behaving positively is something to keep an eye on. Walmart Senior Manager of Sustainability Marife Casem said that the company hopes those intentions translate to action considering its sustainability efforts.

“We hope this intentionality of considering to reward socially responsible companies will turn into behavioral realities,” she said.

Getting consumers to capitalize on their desire to shop more sustainably may be more complicated than just offering more sustainable options. Survey data from GlobeScan has also shown that consumers often overlook sustainability labeling. The recent survey found 70 percent of consumers want more info from companies about sustainability, and 63 percent want to know their fish can be traced back to a known and trusted source.

However, only 25 percent of shoppers said they actually noticed ecolabels on products. Crucially, the age group that noticed ecolabels the most was the youngest, aged 18 to 34.

“I’m really excited about this shift that we’re seeing with the younger consumer,” Marine Stewardship Council Senior Marketing Manager Kristen Stevens said. “There’s definitely an exciting shift with that younger shopper.”

Stevens added that Gen Z appears to be showcasing the largest shift in buying habits when it comes to sustainability.

“They really want to support brands that align with their values,” she said. “I suspect we’re going to continue to see this momentum caused by this younger generation.”

Casem, and Conagra Brands Brand Manager for Brand Development in Frozen Prepared Seafood Logan Soraci, both said that their companies aren’t ignoring that increased push for sustainability from younger generations.

“It’s really interesting, in all honesty, this is exactly what we’re seeing and it’s the fuel for the fire for all the different things we’re doing for sustainability across the entire enterprise,” Soraci said. “It’s important for us to listen to these things and address the consumer intentions, because it’s ultimately us bringing these things to the consumer.”

According to Casem, younger generations are also presenting opportunities for retailers to give more detail on sustainability initiatives.

“There’s really a power in this generation, they look into your labeling, and they read not only the labels but the story behind the packaging,” she said.

In addition to diving deeper on labels, Gen Z in particular is influenced by different trends than older generations. According to Stevens, data has shown that over 70 percent of Gen Z have been inspired by an online influencer to live in a more sustainable way.

“The younger consumer is really leading the way and influencing change,” she said. “I suspect we’re going to continue to see this momentum caused by this younger generation.”  

Photo courtesy of F8 studio/Shutterstock


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