New survey sees seafood consumers placing sustainability before price and brand

Sustainability is an important factor driving seafood sales, perhaps even more so than brand and price, according to new independent research that takes stock of 21 countries overall and what consumers in each region find essential when purchasing seafood products.

A consumption survey carried out by insights company GlobalScan on behalf of the Marine Stewardship Council – which queried over 16,000 seafood consumers worldwide – found that sustainability was rated more favorably than price and brand when it comes to ocean preservation, with nearly 72 percent of participants agreeing that shoppers should only consumer food from sustainable sources to ensure ocean longevity.

“This survey gives us a detailed insight into just how different the seafood category is compared to others," GlobeScan Director Caroline Holme said. "In a category with relatively few trusted brands, third-party claims on sustainability and traceability can help consumers navigate their choices better. Ocean sustainability is proven to be a topic with real relevance in this category and consumers prioritize it more than we suspected in their seafood purchase decisions.”

The findings on consumer perceptions of seafood sustainability a stark contrast to what motivates consumers when it comes to other fast-moving consumer goods, where price and brand typically outrank sustainability in driving purchase decisions, noted MSC.

Nearly all of the households (85 percent) surveyed admitted to purchasing seafood on a regular basis, with 68 percent adamant that consumers should be prepared to switch to more sustainable seafood moving forward. The consumers most concerned with sustainability were a part of older generations, with 75 percent of seafood consumers aged 55 and over agreeing that seafood eaten should be sourced sustainably, while 67 percent of the participants in the 18 to 34 year-old age bracket agreed.

These insights demonstrate that seafood consumers are attuned to the need for sustainability and that they are prepared to change shopping habits to protect the oceans. Citizens feel empowered to vote for sustainability with their wallets.” said MSC CEO Rupert Howes in a prepared statement.

As far as independent labeling is concerned, the survey found that 68 percent of consumers note that there is a necessity for brands and for supermarkets to independently verify those brands and their claims. Some 62 percent of those surveyed said that by purchasing eco-labeled seafood, they felt they were helping to ensure ample fish for future generations. Another 62 percent agreed that eco-labels on seafood products raise their trust and confidence in the brand, MSC shared in a release.

Just 37 percent of consumers said they have actually seen an MSC eco-label, with different regions registering more awareness than others (for example, 13 percent of Canadian consumers were aware of the MSC ecolabel, while 71 percent of Switzerland’s consumers claimed to know about it). Those consumers within the 18 to 34 age bracket were more likely to recognize the MSC label (41 percent) than those who were older (30 percent of those who were 55 and older said they knew about the label). Approximately 86 percent of consumers who had seen the MSC label said “they trust it and are positive about the organization’s impact.”

More than half of all the consumers surveyed (54 percent) said they were willing to pay more for a certified sustainable seafood product, with those who had seen the MSC label placing the value of it at an average premium of 11 percent globally.

NGOs (41 percent) and scientific organizations (36 percent) were believed to be the groups protecting the oceans the most, according to those surveyed.

“Collaboration between scientists, NGOs, retailers and industry is delivering positive impacts on the water, but unsustainable fishing is still a significant challenge. Consumers who recognize the blue MSC label, trust it. However there’s still more we can do to deliver on demand for sustainable seafood, and empower shoppers to make positive choices. The MSC is therefore increasingly focused on working with our partners and the wider industry to raise awareness of the blue MSC label,” Howes said.

According to MSC, the figures found in this latest survey reflect the findings discovered in the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, which showed that, over the previous year, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew by more than four percent globally, while those without grew less than one percent.


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