These are just some of the results of a pan-EU survey conducted by Eurobarometer on behalf of the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE).
Aiming to shed light on Europeans’ preferences for aquaculture and fishery products – with the ultimate objective of gaining a deeper understanding of the internal market so that operators can be more competitive – researchers interviewed a total of 27,818 citizens face-to-face in their homes and in their native language.
DG MARE said it will use the information, collected using a socially and demographically representative sample of respondents, to support new strategies to stimulate growth, strengthen economic activities in the internal market and create jobs.
In 2015, Europeans splashed out €54 billion on fish and seafood, and consumption per capita is on the rise after dropping following the economic crisis (it was 26 kg per person in 2008 and 25.5 kg in 2015).
The survey found Mediterranean shoppers prefer to buy their fish from the fresh counter of a fishmonger (92% of Greeks and Spaniards and 89% of Portuguese respondents do so ‘often’ or ‘from time to time’) while northern European countries are more likely to buy pre-packaged fish, such as breaded cod or fish prepared in ready meals. 63% of Austrians, 61% of Brits and 55% of Irish said they prefer these types of products.
Across all 28 EU member states, more than six in ten consumers (64%) said they like to try new products at home
with Spain (92%), Sweden (90%) and Denmark (86%) having the highest proportion of consumers who eta fish at home at least once a month.
This changes when dining out, however, with people Luxembourg (52%), Sweden (50%), the UK and Malta (both 49%) most likely to eat fish or seafood in restaurants or canteens at least once a month.
Italians, Irish and Swedish were the most adventurous eaters, with between 74 and 73% of those surveyed saying they liked to try new products and species.
Meanwhile the vast majority of Europeans prefer culinary advice to come from friends and family rather than the media. Over three-quarters (76%) said they bought a new product based on a personal recommendation, but 56% said they also liked to try new products on the basis of a promotional event, for example a special offer at the supermarket.
In landlocked Hungary, the relative majority of consumers (49%) said they never buy fishery and aquaculture products.
Wild or farmed?
Wild caught fish has traditionally been seen by consumers as the more natural, healthy and premium choice, worth splashing out on, when compared with farmed fish.
The Eurobarometer survey found that more than a third of respondents preferred wild products (34%) while less than one in 10 prefer farmed products (8%).
But dwindling stocks of wild fish and efforts of the aquaculture industry to improve its sustainability reputation and tackle issues such as sea lice, mean that consumer attitudes may be changing. A significant proportion (31%) of respondents told Eurobaromoter they had no preference either way.
According to figures from Eurostat, the official statistics office of the EU, Spain was the biggest producer of aquaculture products in the EU with 285,000 tonnes of stock in 2014, followed by the UK with 215,000 and France in third position with 200,000.
Norway’s production dwarfs all three, however, accounting for 1.33 million tonnes in the same year.