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Seafood consumers want less pollution and more fish in the sea

  • 72% of seafood consumers want sustainability claims in supermarkets independently verified
  • Pollution and overfishing are consistently the most concerning ocean issues for seafood consumers in the 22 countries surveyed
  • 83% of seafood consumers globally agree that we need to protect seafood for future generations
  • Consumers trust certification bodies more than government and business
  • Globally, trust in the MSC remains high and awareness of the MSC label has increased

The Marine Stewardship Council has commissioned, for the second time, a comprehensive study of seafood consumers globally. Leading research agency GlobeScan surveyed more than 25,000 consumers in 22 countries and found that seafood consumers (18,909 of those surveyed) are increasingly demanding independent verification of sustainability claims in supermarkets (72% this year compared to 68% in 2016). 70% of seafood consumers worldwide say that they would like to hear more from companies about the sustainability of their seafood. A separate 2016 study from Nielsen also shows that companies that invest in independent labelling and do effective consumer communications outperform their competitors by 4%.

Price trumps sustainability

A notable change from the first study in 2016, is that consumers globally have started putting price before sustainability as a motivator of their seafood purchase decisions. Digging into the figures on seafood consumers revealed a surprising gender divide on this issue, with men more motivated by price and women seeing sustainability as more important. However, consumers in some countries (Germany, Austria, China, Spain, UK, Switzerland, Italy and Sweden) still place sustainability above price, regardless of their age or gender.

A large proportion, 72% of seafood consumers, agree that in order to save the oceans we need to consume seafood from sustainable sources and an increasing number believe that people should be prepared to switch to another type of fish if it is more sustainable (70% in 2018, up from 68% in 2016).

"This survey shows that consumers really do care about the oceans, but with so much confusion about how consumers can help, it’s more important than ever to cut through the clutter and deliver an easy way for people to choose sustainable seafood. With a rising consumer focus on price, and the finding that worldwide more than half of consumers report eating seafood weekly, it is critically important that they have a range of clearly labelled sustainable options at the right price point. We're pleased to see that trust in the blue MSC label remains very high and our focus continues to be to drive understanding of the label," said Head of Marketing for the Marine Stewardship Council, Richard Stobart.

Trust and understanding of the MSC

In a climate of persistently low consumer trust in business globally, trust in the blue MSC label remains high at 69% and understanding of the label has increased on average to 37% globally, up from 32% in 2016. Younger consumers are even more tuned in to choosing sustainable seafood, with 41% of 18-34 year olds understanding what the MSC label means. Consumers also rate certification organisations third (after NGOs and scientists) for their contribution to protecting the oceans, with governments and large companies rated as contributing the least. Of those aware of the MSC label, 79% agree that the MSC is helping to ensure that fishers maintain healthy fish stocks and protect marine life.

Looking to the future

GlobeScan’s tracking of consumer attitudes and beliefs shows that the proportion of people who believe their children and grandchildren will have a better quality of life than them has continued to drop since the start of the millennium. The MSC-commissioned research reflects this concern for the future, with 83% of seafood consumers globally, agreeing that we need to protect seafood for future generations. 81% of those aware of the MSC believe it has a key role to play in achieving this. Globally, consumers are united in thinking that the biggest threat to the oceans is pollution, followed by overfishing. Younger consumers (18-34) show a slightly different profile, eating less seafood on average and being more worried about the effects of climate change on the oceans than their older counterparts.

Speaking about the research, Associate Director at GlobeScan, Abbie Curtis commented:

"In a world of increasing consumer pessimism, people are looking for messages of hope and reassurance. We are happy to see that the theme of protecting seafood for future generations resonates strongly with consumers in all 22 countries surveyed. We’re also seeing that, in a low trust environment, consumers are increasingly looking to third parties to verify sustainability claims. This finding is consistent with a growing body of evidence from across GlobeScan’s work with retailers and non-profit clients.”

The survey was conducted online using large and reliable national consumer research panels to recruit respondents in each country. Fieldwork was staggered by market and conducted between 12th January and 10th March 2018.

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