EUROPE - Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified products are growing in recognition and popularity in the Dutch market, and gaining ground in Germany, according to a new report commissioned by the organisation.
The research, undertaken by analysts GFK, looked at awareness and understanding of the ASC label and its influence on buying behaviour in both countries.
It compared the situation in early 2013, just six months after the launch in August 2012 of the ASC label, and the awareness and recognition by consumers a year later, in April 2014.
The results were positive and showed that in the short time the consumer label has been available on products in the Netherlands, 29 per cent of all fish buyers had become familiar with it. In Germany, the recognition level had reached 22 per cent .
“The ASC logo also provides broader reassurance and reinforces purchasing decisions and 39 per cent of Dutch consumers felt that the logo communicated positively about the certified seafood. We were impressed to see that 58 per cent of German fish buyers who are familiar with the ASC label, have actively sought it out in retailers,” said ASC CEO Chris Ninnes.
“There was also an increase from five per cent to 16 per cent in the number of fish buyers in the Netherlands who correctly identified the meaning of the ASC label as being related to farmed fish, and from six per cent to 13 per cent in Germany. However, we still have work to do, to ensure that more consumers understand the reassurance that our label brings to their table, in terms of responsible sourcing and use of best practice in aquaculture,” he added.
Interviewees reported that responsible use of antibiotics, prevention of pollution, regular farm audits, and animal welfare remained the most significant aspects in gaining buyers’ trust in responsibly farmed fish.
Around half of all seafood in supermarkets now comes from farmed sources, and the ASC’s certification and labelling programme for responsibly farmed seafood is helping to ensure that standards around the world are steadily improving.
“We work with partners to run an exciting and ambitious program to transform the world's seafood markets and promote the best environmental and social aquaculture performance,” explained Ninnes. “In doing so, we aim to increase the availability of certified responsible seafood, and its compliance with our exacting standards is promoted to consumers through the ASC logo on packs.”
The ASC programme is important to fish farmers seeking to sell their products, as evidence of responsible production is required by retailers in Germany and the Netherlands. In turn, the ASC logo helps to reinforce the sustainability credentials of retailers in the eyes of the consumer.
The importance to consumers of sustainably-sourced seafood was reinforced in a recent report by Wageningen University for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which showed that sales rose by 21 per cent in the Netherlands last year. The ‘Monitor Sustainable Food 2013’, revealed that one in three seafood products in the Dutch retail sector now carries the MSC label for sustainably caught seafood, or the ASC logo for responsibly farmed seafood.
The Netherlands has the highest number of companies holding ASC Chain of Custody (CoC) certification, followed by Germany. A CoC audit is mandatory for all businesses handling and trading ASC certified seafood, and ensures that products are fully traceable back to source.
The Netherlands also leads the world in the number of ASC certified products on sale, with 217 different pangasius, tilapia and salmon products available. Switzerland is second in the league with 163 products, closely followed by Germany with 160. ASC certified farmed shrimp will boost this offering, when it becomes available in late 2014.
Globally, there were 1080 ASC approved products at the beginning of June 2014 and 80 certified farms.
TheFishSite News Desk