Consumers show increasing appetite for sustainable seafood

New independent research conducted on behalf of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) shows that consumers are increasingly looking for fish products from a sustainable source, and that ecolabels give credibility to these claims.

The research is believed to be the world’s largest international survey of sustainable seafood consumption. It questioned more than 9,000 regular seafood buyers from 15 countries across Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America. It repeats similar research undertaken on behalf of the MSC in 2010 and 2012.

Almost all (90%) respondents thought that ocean sustainability is important, with 55% saying that falling fish stocks has become a more important issue than it was a year ago. 60% agreed that buying sustainably caught seafood would help to ensure fish stocks for future generations.

This concern for ocean health is being translated into shoppers’ purchasing decisions, with two in five (41%) actively looking for fish products from a sustainable source, an increase of five per cent since 2010 (36%).

Supermarkets and restaurants are seen to have a key role in ensuring the sustainability of seafood. Almost two thirds (65%) of those surveyed agreed that it’s important for supermarkets to make sure that they are selling sustainably caught fish. Those in France (78%) and Australia (74%) were the most likely to place responsibility with supermarkets. Almost the same number (61%) agreed that restaurants should show sustainable seafood options on their menus.

Almost half (46%) of respondents agreed that they trust brands that use ecolabels more than those that don’t. After recommendations from friends or family (59%), independent ecolabels were seen as the most trustworthy form of information for ensuring environmental and social responsibility (57%), ahead of specialist magazines (53%) and government advice (51%). A brand’s own promise on product came bottom of the trust rankings with just 39%.

With MSC ecolabelled products now available in around 100 countries, the survey found that a third (33%) of the regular seafood buyers recognise the MSC ecolabel. This represents an increase of 8% compared with countries surveyed in 2010.

The survey indicates that the market for MSC sustainable seafood will continue to grow, with two thirds (65%) of respondents saying that they intend to buy more MSC ecolabelled seafood in the future, and that they would encourage friends and family to do the same.

Price remains the one of the primary factors determining seafood purchasing decisions (79%), with traceability of the product (66%) and its sustainability (61%) also ranking highly. However, respondents did express an increased willingness to pay a little more for a product with an ecolabel (39% compared with 32% in 2010).

Nicolas Guichoux, Global Commercial Director at the MSC said: “Around the world, the demand for sustainably sourced seafood is increasing. This survey shows that ecolabelling is an effective tool for fisheries, retailers and restaurants wishing to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable fishing. With 25,000 MSC labelled products now available in around 100 counties worldwide, buyers and consumers have many opportunities to find seafood from sustainable source.”


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