Seafood shoppers place sustainability above price or brand

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

More than half of consumers are willing to pay more for a certified seafood product, according to a 16,000-strong survey. ©iStock/SonerCdem
More than half of consumers are willing to pay more for a certified seafood product, according to a 16,000-strong survey. ©iStock/SonerCdem

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When shopping for seafood, consumers are prepared to put sustainability before price and brand, according to a 16,000-strong survey commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Those surveyed rated sustainable sourcing more highly than the product’s price or brand name and, globally, were prepared to pay an average of 11% more than the market price for an MSC-certified product.

MSC CEO Rupert Howes said: “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.”

The poll, carried out by Globescan on behalf of the MSC, surveyed 16,000 seafood consumers across 21 different countries in Europe, North America and Asia (China and Japan).

Some countries such as South Africa, Belgium and Norway were included for the first time and a minimum of 600 people were included from each country to ensure a statistically representative sample.

More than four in five (85%) households buy seafood on a regular basis, and the MSC-commissioned survey found that 68% of respondents said people should be more prepared to switch to sustainable seafood.

It’s a response that the MSC is no doubt happy to hear – but how does it plan to get consumers to put their money where their mouths are?

Look for the logo

Raising the profile of the MSC blue logo may be one way it could increase willingness to fork out for sustainable seafood.

The poll showed more than half (54%) were willing to pay more for a certified seafood product, and those who knew the MSC logo placed its value at a premium of 11% globally.

While 37% of consumers overall said they recognised the association’s blue label, this awareness varied from country to country. Swiss consumers were the most 

use this one

familiar with the MSC logo, with 71% of those surveyed recognising but this dropped to 13% in Canada.

Speaking at the Sustainable Food Summit in Amsterdam last month, Camiel Derichs, MSC regional director for Europe, told delegates a consumer-facing logo was key in increasing uptake of sustainable fishing practices.

“Good management of fisheries, good planning and NGO campaigning all play a fundamental role.

"But as a credible standard for a verification programme, an eco-label creates that incentive that helps well-managed, sustainable fisheries be recognised and that recognition in the form of [….] better access to markets or possibly price premiums in some cases that can help motivate fisheries that are not yet certified to start searching for certification," ​he said.

This was reflected in the Globescan survey which found a high proportion (81%) of those surveyed who knew the label believed it rewarded sustainable fishing and the same number said it encouraged more sustainable shopping habits.

Standout brands

Nicolas Guichoux, global commercial director at the MSC told FoodNavigator that since much seafood is sold by retailers under their own brand private labels, there are therefore few brands within the seafood category which stand out.

"We didn’t ask consumers which seafood brands they trust, but some which stand out as supporting sustainable sourcing through commitments to the MSC label are John West Australia, which say trust in its brand increase when they put the MSC label on 97% of their tuna cans, Nomad Foods Europe, which owns the Birdseye, Findus and Iglo brands and has committed to use the blue MSC label on all its certified products across Europe; and UK restaurant chain, Wahaca, which uses the MSC label on all its menus," ​he said.

Currently around 10% of wild seafood caught globally is MSC-certified.

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