Consumers demand scrutiny of seafood claims

The vast majority of seafood consumers want sustainability claims made on supermarket products to be verified by a third party.

The proportion of seafood consumers demanding independent verification of sustainability claims rose from 68% in 2016 to 72% in 2018, according to a study of 25,000 consumers in 22 countries commissioned by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The figure was even higher in the UK at 77%.

A large majority of those surveyed – 70% – also said they would like to hear more from companies about the sustainability of their seafood.

Yet despite these good intentions, the study found that consumers globally have started putting price before sustainability as a motivator of their seafood purchase decisions. Men, in particular, are more motivated by price although consumers in certain countries, including the UK, Germany and China, still place sustainability above price, regardless of their age or gender.

Pollution of the oceans, including plastics, ranked as the most concerning ocean issue for consumers, followed by overfishing of fish species. 72% of seafood consumers agreed that in order to save the oceans we need to consume seafood from sustainable sources; while 70% believe that people should be prepared to switch to another type of fish if it is more sustainable, up from 68% in 2016.

MSC said that trust in its blue ecolabel stood at 69% and understanding of the label has increased on average to 37% globally, up from 32% in 2016.

"This survey shows that consumers really do care about the oceans, but with so much confusion about how consumers can help, it’s more important than ever to cut through the clutter and deliver an easy way for people to choose sustainable seafood,” said Richard Stobart, head of marketing for the Marine Stewardship Council. “With a rising consumer focus on price, and the finding that worldwide more than half of consumers report eating seafood weekly, it is critically important that they have a range of clearly labelled sustainable options at the right price point.”

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