Seafood consumers put sustainability before price and brand — Marine Stewardship Council
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Seafood consumers put sustainability before price and brand

Jul 13, 2016

Independent global research reveals the importance of sustainability when buying fish and seafood. 

  • Consumers perceive NGOs and scientific organisations as contributing most to protecting oceans
  • Independent certification increases consumer trust in brands
  • Awareness of the blue MSC label is 37% amongst all consumers
  • MSC-aware consumers say they will pay a premium of up to 11% for MSC labelled seafood

New independent research has found that sustainability is a key driver for seafood purchase. Across 21 countries overall, sustainability is rated more highly than price and brand, with nearly three-quarters (72%) of seafood consumers agreeing that in order to save the oceans, shoppers should only consume seafood from sustainable sources.

See the consumer survey results as an infographic >

Seafood consumers put sustainability before price and brand

This is in contrast to purchasing motivations among shoppers of other fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), where price and brand typically outrank sustainability in driving purchase decisions*.

The consumer perceptions survey is the largest ever global analysis of attitudes to seafood consumption and was carried by independent research and insights company GlobeScan, on behalf of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Over 16,000 seafood consumers in 21 countries took part in the research, which ensured a statistically representative sample in each country.

Sustainability influences actions of consumers of all ages

With over four in five (85%) households purchasing seafood regularly, concern about ocean sustainability is influencing shoppers’ actions. 68% said people should be prepared to switch to more sustainable seafood.

Seafood consumers put sustainability before price and brand

Older consumers demonstrate a greater concern for sustainability. 75% of seafood consumers aged 55 and over agreed with the need to eat seafood only from sustainable sources, compared with 67% of 18 to 34 year olds.

“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.” says MSC CEO, Rupert Howes.

Independent labelling increases brand trust

More than two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed said there is a need for brands and supermarkets to independently verify their claims about sustainability, with 62% agreeing that by buying ecolabelled seafood they are helping to ensure plenty more fish for future generations. The same number (62%) agreed that ecolabels on seafood products raise their trust and confidence in the brand.
Seafood consumers put sustainability before price and brand

While 10% of the world’s wild caught seafood comes from MSC-certified fisheries, 37% of all consumers said that they have seen the MSC ecolabel. Awareness varies across the 21 markets surveyed, from 13% in Canada up to 71% in Switzerland. Respondents aged 18 to 34 are more likely to recall seeing the MSC label (41%) compared to older respondents (30% of those 55+). Of those who have seen the blue MSC label more than six in ten (64%) are likely to recommend it to people they know.

More than half (54%) of seafood consumers said they are prepared to pay more for a certified sustainable seafood product. Those who have seen the MSC label place the value of the MSC label at an average premium of 11% globally.

Positive perceptions of the MSC

When asked which institutions they believed were contributing the most to protecting the oceans, respondents ranked NGOs (41%) and scientific organisations (36%) highest, with governments and business ranked as least effective.

These results are consistent with consumers’ perception of the MSC, where 86% of consumers who have seen the label say they trust it and are positive about the organisation’s impact.

As the world’s most recognised seafood ecolabelling and certification program, consumers are positive that the MSC, and the fishers, retailers and brands committed to MSC certified seafood, are contributing to the health of the world’s oceans. More than eight in ten (81%) of those who have seen the label say that the MSC helps recognise and reward sustainable fishing. The same proportion (81%) say the MSC encourages people to shop more sustainably.

Empowering consumers to make positive choices

“Collaboration between scientists, NGOs, retailers and industry is delivering positive impacts on the water, but unsustainable fishing is still a significant challenge. Consumers who recognise 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 added.

Caroline Holme, Director at GlobeScan said: “This survey gives us a detailed insight into just how different the seafood category is compared to others. 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 prioritise it more than we suspected in their seafood purchase decisions.”

These figures support findings of 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 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%**.

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.

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. Austria, Belgium, China, Italy, Norway and South Africa were all 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 >

* Neilsen research shows that brand is a key purchase driver

**Consumer goods brands that demonstrate commitment to sustainability outperform those that don't

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