ANALYSIS- The Seafish 2012 Humber Seafood Summit took place last week in Grimsby, UK. A large part of the meeting focussed on consumers and their perceptions and buying habits of fish in today's market. With consumers controlling the market, it is important that seafood companies understand what consumers want, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.
Following an economic recession, UK consumer confidence is currently at its lowest point. With volume sales in supermakets down, 58 per cent of people saying they visit restaurants less and with most consumers looking for a promotion or discount, companies need to focus on marketing fish to meet customers needs.
Jonathan Banks, Managing Director of consultancy service, Jonathan Banks Associates Ltd, stated that consumers are looking for fish that is convenient, tastes good and is healthy.
Consumers are also becoming more interested in making ethical decisions about the fish they buy, following the pressure of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's) and the media over unsustainable fishing.
The fish industry should therefore compete on quality rather than price, said Mr Banks. He also stated the importance of developing brand equity.
However, Maureen Reynier, Managing Director of Reynier Research, said that with all the various forms of ethical labelling consumers are becoming confused. She stated that consumers want fish to be simple.
"Consumers are most interested in what the fish looks like on the plate," said Ms Reynier. Therefore making fish simple and easy is the best way to market it.
Ms Reynier explained that there is still a gap in knowledge when it comes to fish, with many consumers sticking to fish they know and only knowing a few ways to prepare and cook it. Other barriers include the price and fears over bones and the smell when cooking.
The 'fish in a bag' offer from supermarket giant, Asda, proved successful as it introduced consumers to other fish species and provided the fish in a ready to cook bag. The promotion was simple and convenient and therefore was appealing to consumers.
Seafish's 'Fish is the Dish' blog, aimed at mothers, has also helped to communicate fish knowledge, as it has provided a platform where reciepes and cooking information can be shared.
Seafish CEO Paul Williams concluded by saying that Seafish will work towards providing more fish training and knowledge for consumers.
Despite challenges that the fish industry is facing, it must not be forgotten that while other meat industries have faced long lasting crisis's such as, BSE or claims of increased consumption leading to health risks, fish has remained a 'safe' meat. Generally, consumers are aware that fish is good for them and they should eat more. This has therefore provided an excellent platform from which fish can be marketed.