The largest-ever global analysis of attitudes toward seafood consumption, released today, has found that sustainability is a key driver for seafood purchases: Across 21 countries, sustainability is rated more highly than price and brand, with nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of seafood consumers agreeing that in order to save the oceans, shoppers should only consume seafood from sustainable sources. More than half (54 percent) said they are prepared to pay more for a certified sustainable seafood product.
The consumer perceptions survey was carried by independent research and insights company GlobeScan, on behalf of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Over 16,000 seafood 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 (with at least 600 respondents from each country) took part in the research.
“This survey gives us a detailed insight into just how different the seafood category is compared to others,” said Caroline Holme, Director at GlobeScan. “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 prioritize it more than we suspected in their seafood purchase decisions.”
With over four in five (85 percent) households purchasing seafood regularly, concern about ocean sustainability is influencing shoppers’ actions. 68 percent said people should be prepared to switch to more sustainable seafood.
“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,” says MSC CEO Rupert Howes. “Citizens feel empowered to vote for sustainability with their wallets.”
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In a somewhat surprising turn (as Millennials have been dubbed the most sustainability-conscious generation yet), older consumers demonstrate a greater concern for seafood sustainability: 75 percent of respondents aged 55 and over agreed with the need to eat seafood only from sustainable sources, compared with 67 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds.
Independent labelling increases brand trust
More than two-thirds (68 percent) of those surveyed said there is a need for brands and supermarkets to independently verify their claims about sustainability, with 62 percent agreeing that by buying ecolabeled seafood they are helping to ensure plenty more fish for future generations. The same number (62 percent) agreed that ecolabels on seafood products raise their trust and confidence in the brand.
Whilst 10 percent of the world’s wild caught seafood comes from MSC-certified fisheries, 37 percent of all consumers said that they have seen the MSC ecolabel. Awareness varies across the 21 markets surveyed, from 13 percent in Canada up to 71 percent in Switzerland. Respondents aged 18 to 34 are more likely to recall seeing the MSC label (41 percent) compared to older respondents (30 percent of those 55+). Of those who have seen the blue MSC label more than six in ten (64 percent) are likely to recommend it to people they know; those who have seen the MSC label estimate its value at an average premium of 11 percent globally.
Positive perceptions of the MSC
When asked which institutions they believed were contributing the most to protecting the oceans, respondents ranked NGOs (41 percent) and scientific organizations (36 percent) highest, with governments and business ranked as least effective. These results are consistent with consumers’ perception of the MSC, where 86 percent of consumers who have seen the label say they trust it and are positive about the organization’s impact.
As the world’s most recognized seafood ecolabeling 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 percent) of those who have seen the label say that the MSC helps recognize and reward sustainable fishing. The same proportion (81 percent) 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 recognize 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.
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 percent globally, while those without grew less than 1 percent.
About the survey
This year’s survey adds to the growing evidence that ocean sustainability is a topic with global relevance that 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. Belgium, China, Austria, Italy, Norway and South Africa were 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.