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New ASC research shows that health and sustainability claims are driving global seafood purchases

The ASC's most comprehensive piece of global consumer research emphasises seafood's role as a sustainable source of protein for shoppers.

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
2 August 2022, at 11:00am
shopper holding fish at a grocery case
ASC surveyed thousands of shoppers across 12 countries

In all 12 markets, health was the primary driver for consumers buying seafood

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has completed its most comprehensive consumer research to date, interviewing more than 12,000 consumers in 12 different countries about their perception and consumption of seafood. Here is what we found out:

Health: the #1 reason for buying seafood

In all 12 markets, health is the primary driver for consumers buying seafood– with Germany and France leading this trend. More than 80 percent of consumers agree that including fish in their daily shopping is important for health reasons. That trend is highest in Spain, with almost full consensus (96 percent), and lowest in the Netherlands – still with a strong consensus of 80 percent. However, consumers also love seafood for its taste, which was the second mention, and see it as a pivotal part of a well-balanced diet.

Huge potential to be a sustainable source of animal protein

The research shows that most consumers – between 75 percent and 89 percent depending on market – believe the seafood industry has the potential to be sustainable and responsible, showing the potential of seafood as an environmentally-friendly source of animal protein. However, this potential is not yet fully realised: more than half do not perceive it to be sustainable right now. Consumers in the countries that have stronger sustainability sensibility – the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France – tend to think the seafood industry is less sustainable and less responsible than consumers in other countries.

Certification schemes central to seafood sustainability improvements

While consumers are not satisfied with the current level of sustainability of the seafood industry, they largely agree that they can play a part in its improvement. Between three and four out of five respondents state that buying responsible seafood has a positive effect on oceans. The importance of certification schemes to drive forward the sustainability of the seafood industry becomes clear in the research. Consumers’ most trusted sources of information about seafood sustainability and responsibility are independent certification schemes that put their labels on seafood packaging– more than environmental organisations, seafood brands, retail brands or other sources.

ASC: growing in global awareness

For farmed seafood, ASC is the most recognised certification scheme, with the highest awareness in the Netherlands where two-thirds of respondents recognise the ASC label, followed by Belgium (60 percent), Germany (58 percent), France (48 percent) and the United States (46 percent). Research also shows that trust in the ASC label is generally high– with trust figures ranging from 68 percent in France to 80 percent and above in Italy, the UK, the US and Australia. Additionally, the majority associate the ASC logo with sustainability and responsibility.

More information and activation needed

The research also reveals that while sustainability is a top consideration in seafood purchases, consumers may not be buying responsibly as often as they can. Freshness and cost are the two highest considerations for consumers when asked, unprompted, what their requirements are when buying seafood. Sustainability is the third most common requirement.

When asked if they prefer wild or farmed seafood, consumers have a preference for wild, especially in Spain and France. However, an almost equivalent number of consumers have no preference between wild or farmed– seen especially in Japan, as well as Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. The survey also reveals that more information is needed to alleviate concerns and misconceptions of consumers about farmed seafood.

shopper holding bags of frozen shrimp
Consumers in France and Spain showed a strong preference for wild-caught seafood

The survey revealed that more information is needed to alleviate concerns and misconceptions of consumers about farmed seafood

About the survey

ASC tracks global and regional progressions of seafood shopper awareness, attitudes, trust and activation relating to responsibly farmed seafood and the ASC certification and labelling programme.

The research completed most recently is the second wave of a biennial, multi-market, quantitative study. The fieldwork for it was conducted between 23 December 2021 and 24 January 2022 via online consumer panels.

Approximately 1,000 consumers were surveyed in each country – the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, China and Japan. It is the most substantial consumer research ASC has conducted since its founding in 2010.