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New studies on seafood outline health, environmentally concerns, culinary characteristics or brand-loyalty as current consumption trends in Europe

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By Milthon Lujan

Vigo, Spain.- Researchers of the PrimeFish project have presented its analysis of European seafood consumers from France, Italy, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom at the largest seafood trade exhibition: the Seafood Expo Global 2018. Between June and September 2017 around 6,500 consumers from five different countries participated in two different online surveys. Results assess the different segments of consumers, their preferences and how much they are willing to pay for different seafood products concerning seven species: salmon, cod, trout, herring, seabass, seabream and pangasius.

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These results will support the decision making of companies, for instance to launch new products. They will be able to find information customised to the characteristics of their seafood products in order to know the ideal consumer profile in each country analysed and how much they are willing-to-pay for it.

The results will be integrated in a tool developed by the project PrimeFish, an Horizon 2020 European research project running from 2015 to 2019. This tool will also offer background information on competitiveness, value chain and price trends in the seafood sector.

Top findings by the researchers:

– Heterogeneity of consumption trends is detected in major European seafood markets: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom.

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– Health is a very important driver of consumption in the European markets studied when it is understood as a global concept that covers a range of aspects such as a nutritive product, low in calories, environmentally conscious or animal welfare

– Another wide European consumer trend is the “cooking artist”, present in France, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom. They love fish by its culinary and sensory characteristics and are highly involved in cooking.

– “Indifferent” consumers can be found in all the countries studied. They do not have any clear characteristics, but represent low to medium fish consumers and even large portions of the market (e.g. in United Kingdom).

– Salmon is the fish species with the highest choice probability in France, Germany, Spain and in the United Kingdom

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– Value for money, price and general appearance are the most important aspects considered by consumers, in general

– Willingness to pay (WTP) of consumers varies greatly between countries and species: salmon stands out as the species for which French consumers would pay the most, Germans would pay the most for seabass.

PrimeFish coordinator Gudmundur Stéfansson said: “PrimeFish offers very interesting results to the companies participating at the Seafood Expo Global when it comes to consumer segmentation: instead of focusing on the whole market, we are focusing on identifying consumer niches in Italy, Spain, Germany, France or United Kingdom. This consumer segmentation plays a major role when a company is introducing a new product or expanding its consumer profile. Besides, PrimeFish has also assessed the willingness to pay for seafood products and key characteristics. If you have something that you feel it’s unique, the tool that PrimeFish is developing will help you to estimate how much consumers are willing to pay for that uniqueness such as sustainability or health claims. I would like to stress that from the beginning we counted on stakeholders as organisations or companies with which we collaborated and who have driven the research.”

PrimeFish leader of interaction with stakeholders Rosa Chapela commented: “All this work has been accomplished by research centers, universities and SMEs with the collaboration of aquaculture and fisheries companies from Europe, Canada and Vietnam. Support from the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union has enabled us to turn into reality this ambitious proposal. The tool that we are developing will enable users to make customised queries and rapidly find evidence-based information and make decisions”.

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What are the characteristics of the European consumers of seafood?

Based on sophisticated data analysis methods the PrimeFish researchers construct 5 to 7 segments in each country and overall 11 EU-wide segments, including information on segment size and segment trends. Groups are defined according to their consumption patterns and key sociodemographic variables at European-level and at single country level (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom).

Many of the consumers’ segments indicate health as a driver of their consumption, being understood as personal health (nutrients, low in calories…), environmental conscious, or related to animal welfare. This trend combines with other patterns, originating healthy and environmentally conscious consumers in Italy, Germany
and EU level, health-oriented cooks in Italy and France, or a 360-degree health orientation in Spain and the EU. All countries, except Italy, have a cooking artist segment who loves fish and its sensory characteristics and is highly involved in cooking. A group of indifferent consumers is present in all countries without exceptions.

These are consumers without any clear preference, but they represent low to medium fish consumers and sometimes large portion of the market (e.g, in the United Kingdom). Other patterns concerns the presence of “brand” buyers in various combinations, mainly, convenience and a trend-seeking attitude, high-quality expectations and taste. These segments are heterogeneous in terms of size and patterns.

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Segments of consumers at country level: France, Italy, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom

The segmentation realised by the PrimeFish project is based on the answers of 800 respondents per country: France, Italy, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom (total of 4,000).

In France, six segments of consumers were identified. Most of consumers can be categorised into the “Selfefficacious convenience” group (31%), “Good for me health” (29%) or “Health oriented (Selfish) not creative cook” (23%).

– “Self-efficacious convenience” are very demanding consumers, giving importance to each aspect of products, and reading labels and claims. Young women and men with high expenditure on fish are represented in this class.

– “Good for me health” buyers expect health benefits from fish consumption and look for guarantees in terms of sustainability certifications and traceability. This segment looks for “easy-to-cook“products and value for money. They have a low-medium consumption and low expenditure in seabream.

– “Health oriented (Selfish) not creative cook” is a growing segment in the French market that values health benefits of fish, they like cooking and variety in terms of species and formats in traditional preparations. Women aged around 45 with a medium-high fish consumption are represented in this group.

For Germany six segments were identified: most of the consumers in Germany are “health & environmentallyconscious” (33%) and “convenience-brand loyal” (23%). These two segments show a growing trend.

– “Health & environmentally-conscious” buyers value health, natural products and texture of fish. For this consumers, the idea of health includes the environment, what makes them value sustainability certifications and guarantees of origin. They are ready to pay for the value they ask for, which is reflected in a high expenditure. Women and men aged over 54 make up this segment.

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– “Convenience-brand loyal” consumers look for value for money. Nutrients, sustainability certification, traceability or label are aspects they look for when buying. In general, young women living in a twoperson household in cities in the countryside with lower fish expenditure.

In Italy seven segments were detected, from which “Local connoisseur” (24%) and “Self-efficacious pragmatics” (23%) show growing trends.

– “Local connoisseur” consumers know everything about fish, use its versatility and experiment with new formats or recipes. It is composed by relatively young women with small families that strongly emphasize the health-nutrition aspect and underline easy digestion.

– “Self-efficacious pragmatics” value the health benefits of fish, look for conservation and versatility. Preferences join the health of the consumer, the environment and a strong emphasis on value for money. Their consumption is focused on salmon and cod as fresh or frozen fillets.

In Spain, six segments of consumers were identified. The “Nutritional digestive and inclusive health (360º) (29%) is the biggest group, with “Brand/seller dependent high-quality” (23%) and “Self-efficacious selfish brand buyer” (23%) cathegories growing.

– “Nutritional digestive and inclusive health (360º)” buyers look for origin and traceability when buying fish. Their medium-high fish consumption is reflected in a relatively high fish expenditure, mainly on fresh seabream and salmon.

– “Brand/seller dependent high-quality” trust their preferred brand, shop or seller. Consumers do not feel safe regarding fish evaluation and preparation. They like to cook, but choose between a very limited range of species. Women above 46 years with small children and low-medium education but high income.

– “Self-efficacious selfish brand buyer” has a preferred brand or seller, and is focused on its health. Men around 55 take care of their family which lives in cities close to the coast.

For United Kingdom, five segments are taken into consideration. Most of consumers belong to the “Selfish health & convenience” (43%) or the “Healthy convenience” (22%) segment. This is the only country analysed where the “Indifferent” consumer group is significant (14%).

– “Selfish health & convenience” consumers are younger couples with medium-low income but relatively high expenditure on fish. They are informed and consult many information sources, do not trade off quality for price and are indifferent to brands, origin and traceability.

– “Healthy convenience” buyers have their focus on “easy” to cook, to stock and to use products. Health is central, with a strong focus on digestion and environmental concern and the request for traceability. Women, aged above 50 with medium-high education and a 2-person household are well represented in this segment.

Segmentation is also available at European level. This study was led by University of Pavia, partner of the PrimeFish project. More insights into the consumers’ profiles are detailed: link

What are the preferences of the European consumers?

PrimeFish also developed an online experiment on consumers’ preferences and willingness to pay (WTP) for seafood products with 500 respondents per country: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom (total of 2,500).

The choice experiment has shown that, in general, the fish species with the highest choice probability is salmon in France, Germany, Spain and in the UK, and seabream in Italy. Value for money, price and general appearance are the most important aspects considered by consumers of every country. In Italy, wild caught and days since
catch or harvest are more important than price. How easy to cook is ranked as another important attribute in fish selection in France, United Kingdom, and Germany. In general, wild-caught fish is more appreciated than farm-raised.

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How much are the European consumers willing to pay for seafood products?

Willingness to pay (WTP) of consumers varies greatly between countries and species. Salmon stands out as the species for which French consumers would pay more, whilst that would be the case for seabass in Germany.

When taking into consideration different products formats, fresh salmon fillets get the highest willingness to pay compared to ready-to-cook formats: figures range from the 37.5% more that Germans would pay for fresh salmon fillets to the 70.8% more of Italians.

The results show positive premiums for products with a sustainability claim, with high heterogeneity across species and countries. The highest premiums have been found in the United Kingdom for herring with a sustainability claim (above 60%), in Germany for seabream, seabass and pangasius (above 40%), in Spain for trout and pangasius (above 30%), in Italy for cod, herring and pangasius (above 20%), and in France for salmon (above 20%).

Regarding seafood product with a nutritional and health claim, highest price premiums were found in Spain for pangasius (68%), trout (37%) and salmon (20%), in Germany for pangasius (44%), seabream (30%) and salmon (24%), in Italy for seabream (27%) and salmon (21%), and in the UK for pangasius (26%).

The relatively low willingness to pay of French consumers for both sustainability label and nutritional and health claims seems to indicate a lack of confidence in sustainability certifications, nutrition and health claims.

This study was led by University of Parma, partner of the PrimeFish project.

Further Information:

PrimeFish is a research project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme. A consortium of 16 European research centers, companies and universities from Europe, Canada and Vietnam are working to strengthen the competitiveness of the European fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
The project is running from 2015 to 2019. Coverage of the event will be offered live on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/Prime_Fish 

More information at: http://www.primefish.eu/ 

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