The Norwegian Seafood Council is the largest and longest running generic marketing organisation for seafood in the world. Every year we compile insights across more than 30,000 people in 25 markets, the largest seafood consumer survey of its kind.
It is essential we keep our finger on the pulse of seafood consumers, to understand what influences and affects their decisions and opinions. We can see that sustainability, closely linked to health, are driving changes in seafood consumption.
Consumers around the world have different needs, but looked at together, a meal needs to:
• Taste good
• Be easy to prepare
• Provide value for money
• Be sustainable for body and planet
Seafood largely delivers on all these drivers, and we see that health, wellness and sustainability have all increased in importance for consumers.
During the pandemic, we have seen shifts in how and where seafood is consumed, with more people cooking more seafood, and trying new recipes at home. The focus on health and wellness has also been high on the agenda in many markets, which is having a positive impact on seafood sales worldwide.
The younger generation is particularly concerned with sustainability, but consumers of all ages increasingly want to make responsible choices that are healthy for the planet, for themselves, their family and society. Many are concerned about climate, the environment and animal welfare.
Sustainability is no longer something that is a marketing ploy or selling point – it is an absolute essential. The Norwegian seafood industry is among the best for sustainable practices, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve. Tougher demands will be made here too in the years to come. The sustainable management, production and development of the seafood industry is an area where we must ensure continued leadership. This will require focus, the will, and the ability, to make substantial changes and investments.
We are seeing an increasing focus on food and food systems, as nations grapple with the bigger picture question of how to feed the world in the future. However, seafood is often overlooked in the debate, which is dominated by a very polarised battle for attention between vegans/vegetarians and meat lovers. But it is not only in the media where we, as an industry, have to speak up for seafood.
To illustrate the challenge ahead of us, consider the fact that England’s National Food Strategy, published last year, failed to mention the role that seafood can play in addressing the pressure on the food system, the environment and of course, health. Not one word in this vitally important document. This is just one example from the UK, but it is unfortunately something we see elsewhere too, including Norway. Just recently, in a drive to promote sustainable diets, the local government in Oslo made vegetarian the default option in all council-run canteens, a move which completely overlooked seafood.
As seafood people, it is an important part of our mission to change this.
Our growing world population needs to be fed, and the seafood sector is part of a vital global industry responding to this. Seafood provides around 3.3 billion people with almost 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein. It has also been acknowledged in the recent EAT-Lancet report – the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system – that seafood can play an important role in the flexitarian diet for those who want to reduce meat consumption without becoming vegan or vegetarian.
My wish for this year is that seafood will be seriously recognised as part of the solution to our climate, and health, challenges, and will take its extremely well-deserved place in the global arena.
This opinion piece was published first in Intrafish 18 March 2022.