EU-funded project unpicks why Europe's fish industry is suffering in the face of international competition and will provide the industry with new software and studies to help improve business strategies.
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The EU is the largest fish market in the world, but the EU’s own fisheries and aquaculture industries are facing tough competition from abroad. EU fish consumption is increasing, but most of this increase has been met by fish imports which now account for 64 % of the market.
EU-funded project PRIMEFISH is undertaking a wide-ranging analysis of Europe’s fish market in a bid to uncover why the EU’s fish industry is not able to meet the rise in demand.
“Some of Europe’s most popular fish like salmon and cod are almost totally imported from outside the EU, despite the rise in EU aquaculture. We want to understand why,” says Valur N. Gunnlaugsson, Liaison Manager at Matis, Iceland and PRIMEFISH team member.
To achieve this, PRIMEFISH is analysing consumer behaviour and market trends in the main European seafood markets. It is exploring price fluctuations, why so many new seafood products fail on markets and why the industry is not meeting current consumer expectations.
The project, which ends in 2019, will pinpoint bottlenecks limiting competitiveness and sustainability, as well as spot opportunities for innovative seafood products and markets. Overall, PRIMEFISH hopes to help strengthen the sector’s competitiveness by improving strategic planning and understanding of seafood markets and consumer preferences.
Fish — the healthy choice
During its first two years the project conducted studies on fish eating trends across Europe. Researchers found that Italians and Spanish choose fish for its freshness, Germans are concerned about the origin of the fish, its sustainability and organic status, while the British choose ready-to-eat or cooked fish products, with sustainability certification being important.
Overall, PRIMEFISH’s research found that fish is perceived as a healthy choice due to its nutrient contents and its calorie-light image. But factors including price, the presence of bones and a lack of cooking skills are the main barriers to consumption, alongside negative press on farmed fish.
The project carried out an in-depth analysis of two major fish markets in Europe — France and Finland. It found that the typical French fresh salmon buyer is a healthy, upper-class, university-educated person living in Paris or the north of France. While the buyer of frozen white fish is typically older, lower-middle class person, living in the South of France.
New business strategy software
PRIMEFISH is developing new software designed to support the seafood industry and decision makers. The PrimeFish Decision Support System (DSS), is a market intelligence tool that will allow users to enter their data and analyse their market position.
One of the features of the tool — the ‘competitive position analyser’ — helps the user compare itself to its competitors within its sector and in other countries.
“Users will be able to evaluate their performance and see average performance results in their sector, allowing them to see where they must improve,” explains Gunnlaugsson. Other features will support companies and policymakers by offering information on successful and underperforming products, forecasting of price and risks and target consumer suggestions for new products.
Successfully launching new fish products
PRIMEFISH is developing a model to help seafood companies develop new products that meet the expectations of seafood consumers. Meanwhile, it is also compiling industry case studies covering the main characteristics of successful product launches, like innovative packaging, labelling and recipe strategies used by the industry.
Next year the project is set to release another raft of reports covering ways to stimulate fish consumption and combat negative press, a report on consumer willingness to pay and a report on opportunities and threats to the industry.