- news, features, articles and disease information for the fish industry


WSC2015: How Do We Increase UK Seafood Consumption?

08 September 2015

UK - Analysing the UK’s retail and foodservice markets, a panel of experts at the 2015 World Seafood Congress in Grimsby, UK, explain the current trends in fish consumption, what drives the UK to buy seafood and where growth in the market will come from, writes Lucy Towers.

Over the last six years there has been a massive drop in UK fish consumption, which is equivalent to nine less portions of fish each year per person, said Dr Martin Jaffa, Callander McDowell.

The biggest buyers of fish in the UK are mainly the 45 – 54 age group and the lowest being the young 16-27 year olds.

This may be down to under 45’s have growing families so less cash available to spend on fish and no time to prepare it.

Similarly, they may be students or still looking for full time employment so less money to spend on food.

For the over 45’s, their children may have left home and therefore they may have more money to spend and more time to prepare meals.

Analysis also says that most over 45’s eat healthier and that they were likely to have grown up with shopping at independent retailers i.e. fish mongers, meaning they are more used to buying fish and knowing what to do with it.

Today’s young people however, have grown up with supermarkets and ready-made meals so they are more used to convenience.

Looking to the future, Mr Jaffa asked, if this younger generation do not start buying more fish, what will happen in the future. In ten years will the 65+ age group then be the biggest fish buying group?
So what other factors may be putting young people off buying fish?

Commonly it is the smell, bones and lack of knowledge of how to cook fish that put people off.
But it may also be the growth of environmental groups campaigning against certain fishing methods or aquaculture.

The downward trend in UK seafood consumption changed however in 2013 when a small increase was observed.

This may be due to the drop in price of fish, Mr Jaffa explained. Price is a very big factor in people’s buying choices of fish. We must get the price right and not too expensive, he said.

Following price, nutrition and then sustainability are the biggest factors.

Consumers have no idea about sustainable certifications or logos on products and what they stand for.

According to data on ethical purchases from Mintel, 52 per cent of Britons are confused by any labels, 75 per cent do not look for them and 48 per cent said even if they knew what the logos were, it would not affect their choice.

With this decline in fish consumption and a big focus on price, it is important to look at the trends of UK shoppers to understand where and how best to market fish.

Understanding UK Retail Market Trends

Simon Kershaw, Neilson, explained that there has been a change in the way we shop, with more people choosing to shop online or in discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl, both of which are expected to continue to grow over the next three years.

UK consumer confidence is at its highest in 9 years at 99, with the international average being 96.
But, despite this and that we are out of the recession, shoppers are still reluctant to spend, with 22 per cent of households saying they have having no spare cash.

So why are shoppers being so cautious? Mr Kershaw explained that there are still concerns around income, fuel and prices, and, low interest rates have prevented people from the security of saving.

People are therefore negative to spending and are becoming more price savvy. They know what the prices of items should be and where they can get it cheaper. Data shows that four per cent would recognize a price change.

People are also now more interested in price cuts rather than multibuy offers, whereas it used to be the other way round. Retailers are also still reliant on vouchers and promotions to encourage people to shop.

Online shopping has seen good growth, with 43 per cent of GB shoppers shopping online, as it allows for the more price savvy to compare prices and manage spending. It is also more convenient and allows people to buy larger pack sizes.

The 21-34 year old age group is the most likely to browse and shop online, followed by the 35-49 year olds.

However, online sales is not the biggest in fish sales as the 21-34 year olds are not the biggest seafood shoppers and there is also a lack of people buying fish online due to quality reasons as they are unable to pick the fish themselves and have little trust in its quality on arrival.

Another key trend for fish is that there has been a move from frozen to fresh, Mr Kershaw explained.

Looking at the foodservice sector, and where the opportunities for fish lie, Julia Brooks, Seafish, stated that casual dining has experienced the most growth of +5.3 per cent followed by quick service restaurants (1.1 per cent) and pubs (0.2 per cent). Full service restaurant sales were down however.

Consumers are also moving away from their regular places to eat out and are wanting to try new things and places, with less concern of loyalty.

In terms of meal sittings, seafood has seen growth in all – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Highlighting the areas of opportunity for fish in the foodservice sector, Ms Brooks explained that there must be a focus on innovation and promotion to get people buying.

Market your products as either high end or honest good value but not in the middle, she said.

Give clear messages on your menus of what you are serving and where it has come from. Open displays are also very popular.

Communication on how good fish is for you is also very important and finally, keep up with new trends.

Lucy Towers

Lucy Towers
News Team - Editor

After graduating from The University of Sheffield, Lucy joined 5M in 2011 as part of the News Desk team. In 2012, she was promoted to editor of TheFishSite. With previous farming experience and a love for the great outdoors, Lucy has a passion for wildlife and the environment.

Our Sponsors


Sustainable Aquaculture Modular Courses AVAILABLE NOW - University of St Andrews

Seasonal Picks

Know Your Freshwater Fishes - 5m

Aquacullture Webinars from TheFishSite - Sign Up Now