- In past five years, 44% of American and British consumers have added more fish to their diets, according to Cargill’s most recent Feed4Thought survey. The survey asked what type of animal protein consumers have eaten more of in recent years. Poultry was a close second with 41%, then beef at 32% and pork at 24%.
- Consumers cited health reasons as their primary motivation for the shift. "More and more people are choosing fish as a source of protein because of its big impact on health and relatively small impact on our planet," Dan Burke, group director for Cargill’s aqua nutrition business in the U.S. and U.K. said in a statement.
- Notably, survey respondents also indicated that overall sustainability and environmental impact in fishing practices should be the priority of fish farmers. About 59% of those surveyed ranked "keeping fish healthy" as the most important duty of a company raising seafood.
Thanks in part to the surge in protein-driven diets and an interest in consuming foods that do more for the body than just taste good, more people have been adding extra protein to their plates. But not just any protein will do.
Although the classics are still popular — meat, especially chicken, sales have been increasing as consumers search for more protein sources — fish is catching the most new attention. As greater numbers of consumers become conscious of the micronutrients in their food and more concerned about their consumption of saturated fat and carbohydrates, it is seen as an ideal source of protein for more consumers.
Today, nearly one in five U.S. shoppers say they would like to eat more fish. Nielsen reports seafood sales increased 3.4% over the year ending Feb. 24.
The overall impact of seafood farming and fishing has become a central concern for U.S. consumers. In the survey, consumers indicate using resources responsibly and minimizing the impact on the environment should be priorities for fish purveyors.
Sales of seafood with sustainability claims are also up 3%, compared with a 27% jump in sales of seafood with Marine Stewardship Council labeling, and a 30% spike for those with Sustainable Fishing labeling. Customers are clear they don’t want anything fishy when it comes to purchasing seafood. These certifications could help grocers to carefully select seafood purveyors.
This trend is nothing new as transparency and sustainability are trending across categories. Analysts from market research firm IRI and the Food Marketing Institute recently found transparency is vital to those shopping in fresh food departments. In fact, having sustainable and "clean" foods is so important that younger consumers — who are more willing to experiment with their food and aren't brand loyal — may switch if they find a preferable product.
Fish that checks the ethical and sustainable boxes will likely sell well, and everyone from fishermen to fishmongers have caught on. Fishpeople, which is helping restore over-fished American waters, is a prime example of those prioritizing the health of fish and hyper-transparency to drive sales. Cargill, which said it is working with value chains to deliver sustainable seafood, is also on this path. But some are saying that consumers who care about sustainability should stay away from seafood altogether.
Particularly with the push for protein and fresh meals, fish is set on a trajectory path for profitable growth. Fresh foods made up nearly a third of supermarket purchases in 2017, and it turns out consumers are willing to pay more for nutrition that offers an education.
When it comes to seafood, a Future of Fish report found consumers trust and rely on information from the grocery store almost as much as they do from friends or family. With reports about illegal fishing practices, fraud and human labor abuses, grocers who go the extra mile to understand the interests of their customers and prominently label their seafood not only with nutritional benefits, but also the sustainable fishing practices could catch their customers hook, line and sinker.