News and media

Sustainability trumps price and brand for UK seafood shoppers

July 15, 2016

UK shoppers are more concerned with preserving the oceans than price and brand when buying seafood, according to the largest ever global analysis of attitudes to seafood consumption, carried out on behalf of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

In fact, over half (52%) of British seafood consumers are willing to pay more for certified sustainable seafood – specifically, up to 11% more on MSC-labelled products. Furthermore, over three quarters (77%) of respondents agreed that in order to save the oceans, shoppers should only consume seafood from sustainable sources. –Sustainability was rated above price and brand suggesting that shoppers take a more eco-friendly approach to buying seafood than other consumer goods, where price and brand are typically top considerations*.

Concerns about sustainability stretch across the age ranges. A young generation of eco-friendly shoppers is coming to the fore, with 18-34 year olds demonstrating not only concerns about the traceability of the fish they buy today but also a desire to preserve stocks for tomorrow. More than two thirds claim they want to know the fish they buy is traceable and recognise that by buying eco-labelled fish and seafood they are helping to ensure there will be plenty more fish left for future generations (69%). They are also more likely to trust a product’s origins if it has an ecolabel (62%).

Older shoppers seem the most willing to take their concerns a step further and change their behaviour to ensure the fish they eat is exclusively eco-friendly. The vast majority say we need to eat only sustainable seafood (83%)

Toby Middleton, UK Programme Director for MSC, says: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see that shoppers are choosing sustainability over brand and particularly price when buying seafood. The good news is that as more and more supermarkets and fish and chip shops adopt MSC certification, shoppers will have a greater range of sustainable brands to choose from to suit all pockets – from Lidl to Selfridges.”

Reliable labelling is key in making an informed decision, with seven in ten (70%) wanting supermarket brands’ sustainability and environmental claims to be independently verified and 58% saying that such ecolabels raise their confidence and trust in a brand.

Concerns about sustainability have a direct impact on shopping habits; a third (34%) of consumers say they purchase more ecolabelled fish and seafood products now than a year ago and this is backed by data that shows that £1 in 6 spent on seafood in UK supermarkets is now spent on an MSC labelled product **. Further data shows that over the previous year, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew by more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%***.

Achieving real change

Moreover, the choices shoppers are making to buy more MSC fish is having a real impact on the water. MSC’s recent global impacts study shows that of the 281 certified fisheries 94% have made at least one additional improvement to strengthen or further monitor their sustainability helping to drive healthy oceans around the world.

The survey was carried out by independent research and insights company GlobeScan, on behalf of the MSC. Over 16,000 seafood consumers in 21 countries took part in the research, which ensured a statistically representative sample in each country.

Middleton adds, “Choosing seafood with the MSC ecolabel rewards the fisheries, retailers, brands and restaurants that are committed to sustainable sourcing, and incentivises others to improve their practices, helping to ensure that the life in our oceans is safeguarded for the future.”

About the survey

This year’s survey uses the latest methodologies, sampling and question wording, developed by independent research and strategy consultancy, GlobeScan It adds to the growing evidence that ocean sustainability is a topic with global relevance and ranks high in seafood purchase decisions.

The survey was carried out between January and February 2016 using large and reliable national consumer research online panels to recruit respondents, with a minimum of 600 seafood consumers surveyed per country. In the UK, 1,000 seafood consumers were surveyed.

Consumers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA took part. China was surveyed for the first time this year.

The main sample of fish and seafood consumers comprised a total of 16,876 consumers who said they or someone in their household had purchased fish or seafood in the last two months, out of a total sample size of 21,877. The figures were weighted to be nationally representative by gender, age, region and education.

See the consumer survey results as an infographic >


** MSC ecolabel royalties data


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