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New research reveals increasing consumer support for the MSC ecolabel

Sep 04, 2012

An independent survey commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) shows that 30 per cent of consumers who buy fish at least once every two months [1], are aware of the MSC ecolabel for sustainable and well managed fisheries – up from 23 per cent in 2010.

The biennial consumer survey conducted by Albemarle Marketing Research (AMR) [2], seeks to understand consumer support for ecolabels in general, their attitudes towards sustainable seafood and MSC labelled products. In 2012, a total of 5,977 interviews were completed in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, USA, Canada, Japan and Australia. 

When shown the MSC ecolabel, stripped of all the text, 30 per cent of respondents (with variations across the 10 countries surveyed) said they had seen it before, and over 9 per cent of all respondents were then able to accurately describe, without any prompting, what the MSC ecolabel stands for – up from 5 per cent in 2010. 

Significant increases in Northern Europe 

Recognition [3] of the MSC ecolabel is going from strength to strength in Northern Europe. It has leapt to 55 per cent in Germany (up from 36 per cent in 2010), 44 per cent in Netherlands (up from 34 per cent in 2011), 38 per cent in Sweden (up from 28 per cent in 2011) and 31 per cent in the UK (up from 18 per cent in 2010).

In Japan and France there is a small but encouraging increase in recognition: just over one in six Japanese and just over one in five French consumers recognise the MSC debranded ecolabel.

In the first survey carried out by AMR in Denmark and Australia, 35 per cent and 12 per cent of consumers respectively reported awareness of the MSC ecolabel for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

Tracking consumer commitment

In a test to ensure consumers fully understand the significance of the ecolabel on-pack [3], respondents were also asked to describe the debranded MSC ecolabel in their own words. 14 per cent of consumers in Europe (6 countries tested) accurately described the blue ecolabel as a mark for environmental/sustainable seafood – up from 8 per cent in 2010 (UK, France and Germany tested). German and Dutch consumers are leading the way in 2012; close to one in four respondents in both countries, without prompting, described the blue logo as a mark for environmental/sustainable seafood (an increase of 6 per cent in Germany since 2010 and 12 per cent in the Netherlands since 2011).

Increasing consumer trust in ecolabels

Across the 10 countries surveyed, consumers reported an increasing value placed on ‘independent ecolabels’; 54 per cent of respondents believe ecolabels are effective in ‘helping bringing changes to environmental/social problems’ and 59 per cent agree that ‘a product that carries an ecolabel has less impact on the environment’ (up from 52 per cent in 2010). The research also reveals that the presence of an ecolabel on products continues to make a positive impact on consumers’ perception of the host brand; 44 per cent of consumers reported a higher level of trust for brands that use ecolabels (up from 40 per cent in 2010).

In the UK and the Netherlands, ‘ecolabels on products’ rank as the most trusted source of information on socially and environmentally responsible goods. Ecolabels rank second in Japan, Australia, France and the US; recommendation by friends and family’ is considered the most trusted source of information in 5 of the 10 countries surveyed – this is also an indication of how much sustainability issues are part of everyday conversations.

Supporting well managed and sustainable fishing

‘The significant fishery and commercial commitments in recent years have greatly contributed to the visibility of the MSC ecolabel in store. In addition, increased media coverage and joint-marketing partnerships around the world have boosted consumer awareness and understanding of the significance of the MSC ecolabel on pack. While this is a study of consumer attitudes rather than actual behaviour, the trends clearly demonstrate that there is a growing number of consumers around the world actively choosing to recognise and reward sustainable fishing practices and who are willing to play their part in helping to safeguard fish supplies for this and future generations,’ says Simon Edwards, Global Marketing & Communications Director, MSC.

Since 2008, the MSC has scaled up efforts and joined forces with fishery and supply chain partners to increase the visibility of MSC labelled products at the point of sale – over the past three years, over 30 campaigns have taken place in major retailers around the world. The extraordinary results of these in-store campaigns (up to 500 per cent sales growth) have demonstrated that an increasing number of shoppers care about sustainability and, with a little prompting will act on their values.

For a presentation of the results, please contact your local MSC office.

To support fisheries that are helping to protect the world's oceans, please choose MSC labelled seafood: http://www.msc.org/where-to-buy/product-finder

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[1] The results at country level are nationally projectable to the adult population of regular buyers of seafood in the major retailers (statistically valid at 95 per cent confidence level +/- 4 per cent).  Respondents were to be mainly or jointly responsible for buying the food for themselves/their family have bought a fish product at least once every two months from their main store.

[2] The Albemarle Marketing Research (AMR) survey was carried out to gauge attitude and behaviour towards ecolabels, sustainable seafood and MSC in 10 countries. The research is undertaken every two years to monitor awareness of and commitment to the MSC labelled products in key markets.

A total of 5,977 interviews completed in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, France, Canada, USA, Australia and Japan. In 2012, the research was conducted between 15th February and 23rd March 2012.
Note that in 2010, six countries were included in the research: Germany, UK, France, Japan, the US and Canada.

[3] Recognition measures consumers' knowledge of an organisation's existence. It refers to the proportion of target audience which has prior knowledge of the organisation.

Recall is the consumers' ability to retrieve specific information from memory to understand about an organisation.
Prompting and Influence’ were minimised by:
-    Asking the recognition question (have your seen this logo before?) and recall question (What does it mean to you?) before any others in the survey
-    Removing the text that identifies the ecolabel
-    Describing it as a logo rather than ecolabel
-    No clues given to respondents during recruiting of what the survey is testing

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