UK - The market for organic food has grown dramatically in the EU over the last few years. However, there is low production and consumption of organic seafood in Europe. Looking into why there is low consumption and the differences between organic regulations and what consumers actually think about organic seafood, Pirjo Honkanen, Nofima, revealed some of her findings of the OrAqua project at Aquaculture Europe, 20-23 September, Edinburgh, Scotland.
The objective of the OrAqua project was to study European consumers’ perceptions and understanding of organic fish to promote consumer confidence and acceptance of organic aquaculture principles.
So far, some of the reasons for low consumption are thought to be due to a more expensive price, poor availability, lack of marketing and awareness and confusion with other eco-labels.
European regulations need to be improved and revised to help the growth of the sector and brand awareness will also play a key role in driving sales.
In order to better understand consumer attitudes and understanding of organic seafood, Ms Honkanen conducted an online survey in Germany, UK, France and Italy. At least 25 per cent of the survey participants were organic buyers.
The survey also looked at the Euro-leaf organic logo to understand the awareness of it.
The survey results showed that nearly all respondents were not familiar at all with the label. Of the four countries, the UK was the least familiar.
In terms of how often people took the label into account when buying showed that hardly anyone did.
Other eco-labels, such as the soil association for organic agriculture products, were seen to be better known. In the UK, 24 per cent of respondents were familiar with it.
Other fish eco-labels, such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) label, were also better known than the Euro-Leaf logo, with 10 per cent of UK respondents recognising it.
Overall, of the four countries, Germany had the most familiarity of labels.
When asked to explain which things are important in organic production, the survey showed a mix of results, demonstrating confusion with buyers.
The highest selected answers were that organic fish should be:
- natural living conditions
- no use of chemicals
- synthetic additives prohibited
Whilst these are true to organic seafood, many people also thought that organic fish is wild fish. This shows that there is clearly some confusion. And 'no use of medicines' was also popular. This consumer perception varies from actual regulations which do allow for the use of some medicines due to welfare reasons.
Ms Honkanen also concluded that consumers showed much more familiarity with national organic labels than they do with the Euro-leaf.
This shows a desperate need for better communication and marketing of the Euro-leaf and to differentiate from other labels - thereby increasing the knowledge of organic aquaculture.
The availability of organic fish across retail stores also needs to be increased and a wider variety of products need to be on offer.
There is a need to balance consumer and scientific perspectives for the future of the sector, Ms Honkanen concluded.