European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella reacts to the study: “European consumers tell us they want to have fish on their menu. It is our responsibility, as policy makers, to secure that our citizens can enjoy these tasty products in the long term. This means ensuring the sustainability of our fisheries, and we have progressed a lot on that over the last years. But also aquaculture plays an important role: farmed fish from the EU is a sustainable source of protein and other nutrients. In a low-carbon society, its role will only increase.”
The EU is the world’s largest market for fishery and aquaculture products. We spend twice the amount of money on fish per capita as US consumers. Most important reasons? Because we think it is healthy (74%) and tasty (59%). The supermarket or grocery story is where most of us get our seafood, although many (40%) also prefer the local fishmonger. The products we buy are fresh or frozen; nearly 60% of shoppers avoids breaded fish products or ready meals. That said, we do need some help in the kitchen: only 27% of us are brave enough to buy the whole fish, not cleaned or fileted.
Everywhere in the EU, consumers show a strong preference for regional, national or EU products. Preference for products from the European Union has increased in almost every country compared to the previous study (2016), with the highest increases in Hungary (+7 pp.) and Slovakia (+8 pp.). A strong consumer signal, mostly for the aquaculture community.
Talking about aquaculture, the study also explored, whether consumers make a distinction between wild fish, caught at sea or in rivers, and aquaculture (farmed fish). While more than a third of European fish consumers prefer wild products (35%), nearly one-third (32%) makes no distinction. Only 9% indicates a strong preference for aquaculture products.
Most consumers (61%) like to try new products and species. However, the limited offer (53%) and, especially, too high prices (70%) remain a barrier for consumers who would like to eat more seafood. This shows the importance of helping consumers discover lesser-known species, which can be much cheaper than the most common ones. This in turn can help to reduce pressure on the most exploited stocks, as it creates an outlet for ‘less traditional’ fish brought ashore because of the landing obligation.
The study confirms the high level of trust (83%) that consumers have in the information they receive as result of EU regulations. No less than 75% of consumers find the product information clear and easy to understand. With 94% indicating its importance, the use-by-date, which says until when we can safely consume the product, is the number one type of information we are looking for.
These and many more facts in the full survey: Eurobarometer special survey 475: EU consumer habits regarding fishery and aquaculture products