Supermarkets like New Seasons Market have begun to offer "trash fish," or less popular fish varieties that are often discarded by fisherman, in their seafood cases in order to bolster supply chain sustainability, according to Supermarket News.
The grocery retailer's seafood buyers now supply the store with fish like Rex sole, a bottom-feeding fish that has done well because of its consistently low prices. New Seasons Market's seafood program and category manager Daisy Berg told Supermarket News that sustainability storytelling is the key to encouraging consumers to buy varieties they've likely never seen before.
“What typically happens in our stores is that consumers will see a variety that’s not as expensive, and because of the price they’ll ask about it,” she said in the article. “That’s where our staff can take over, say this fish is really tasty, here’s where it came from and here’s how to prepare it."
Commercial fishers that target popular seafood varieties like tuna and tilapia also haul in tons of less-desirable fish species. In the past, these "trash fish" were dumped back into the sea, but fishers recently began selling them to the foodservice industry to be used as anonymous, low-cost editions to restaurant chowders and seafood chef specials.
Now, many retailers are looking to hook some of these less-popular fish for themselves.
Sustainability is top of mind for the contemporary consumer, and many shoppers are willing to pay more for products that have been ethically sourced ingredients, transparent supply chains and boast sustainability claims. One of the most pressing environmental issues is the over-fishing of the world's oceans, something that many consumers are likely concerned about.
This gives retailers a chance to expand their sustainability initiatives from the produce and meat sections to the seafood case. And the best part? These fish varieties are really cheap, which may encourage repeat purchases.
Retailers looking to introduce unusual fish varieties will need to take a hands-on approach with consumers if they want them to be well received. Unusual names and appearances could turn off less-adventurous shoppers, so retailers should train staff in the fish section of their stores to explain where varieties come from and the popular fish breeds they are like. Providing recipes for how to cook these cheaper fish varieties could also encourage consumer confidence.