Not surprisingly, fish consumers play a key role in production and marketing decisions, as fishermen and distributors recognize their buying choices as a determinant to their operations.
Thus, tracking consumer behavior trends, attitudes, preferences and perceptions of seafood is essential to effective seafood marketing.
There are many consumer behavior studies on seafood available, which say a lot about attitudes and preferences of seafood buyers in different countries, given that eating behavior is a complex phenomenon determined by several interacting factors that go far beyond its functional roles in mitigating hunger or providing nutrition and often include personal and socio-cultural factors.
For example, shrimp, tuna, clams are the most popular seafood items in the United States, with names familiar to both seafood lovers and occasional consumers.
Consumer Behaviour in Asia: Cultural Preferences and Trends
One of the latest surveys
on seafood buyer behavior in China – the world’s largest seafood consumer with around 22 million metric tons of seafood per year - indicated that stewed and steamed perch (a type of freshwater fish), carp and crucian, braised grass carp, fried squid, broiled salmon steak were among the favorite home cooked dishes.
Regarding the preference for fish, 48.7% of the respondents indicated nutritional and healthy concerns, 44.1% mentioned good taste, 3.3% of respondents chose price since fish is cheaper than meat, and 4.33% had other reasons.
Nearly half of respondents (44%) considered convenience as the critical factor for seafood selection and consumption, 38% claimed taste, 18% recommended good texture, and only 6% indicated the healthy aspect.
According to the survey results, there is a clear need to develop more convenient and high value-added products.
This is consistent with the fastest growing demand for surimi products in China, which is considered as convenient and tasty food. The production of surimi products in the country increased nearly 10 times between 2000 and 2009, mainly due to the orientation of surimi products as a convenient and tasty food suitable for long-distance distribution and mass production.
Studies investigating consumption behaviour towards aquatic food among Asian consumers are highly fragmented and disorganized as nations in the Asian region have their own pre-existing national and local food cultures and traditions. The available studies vary greatly in terms of objectives, methodology, sampling technique, and their focus on differences in socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics. Thus, there is a challenge in understanding the key factors influencing consumers’ aquatic food consumption behaviour in the wider Asian context.
Nevertheless, available surveys have showed that, unlike many Western consumers, Asian consumers often prefer to buy whole and/or live fish whether in wet markets, restaurants, supermarkets, or online.
Consumer Behaviour in Europe: Quality and Safety Considerations
In Europe, a common attitude of consumers is to pay a great deal of attention to quality and safety aspects of seafood which influence their purchasing behaviour. In general, consumers in Europe are better aware of the content and effect of harmful substances than of nutrients in fish.
Sustainability and traceability of seafood products also influence consumer behaviors towards it.
The growing consumer expectations for food quality offer new business opportunities and also set some obligations. This applies, for example, to EU aquaculture producers who are willing to differentiate their products and serve specific markets.
In line with the consumer-oriented approach, new labeling provisions are contained in the reform of the Common Market Organization (CMO) in fishery and aquaculture products. Fish products sold to consumers must bear mandatory information such as the commercial and scientific name of the species, whether the product was caught or farmed, whether the product is fresh or has been defrosted, and the date of minimum durability. In addition, wild fish must display detailed information on the fishing area so that consumers have a better understanding of the product origin.
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has further spurred the seafood consumption, with many people having both the time and the inclination to continue exploring the variety of products available in today's market.
Convenience and Quality: The Role of Frozen Seafood
At the same time, the closure of professional catering channels in many regions during lockdown has led to many opting to hone their own kitchen skills in order not to lose their favorite restaurant dishes, which boosted retail sales of seafood.
Those seafood offerings that are available in frozen formats may have benefited more than most from this retail boom.
This can be explained by a number of important factors, but first and foremost, it needs to be recognized that most species tend to freeze very well. In addition, frozen seafood gives consumers access to their preferred products all year round, regardless of whether the species are in season or not.
It has also been demonstrated that frozen fish can offer a fresher product than actual fresh fish. This is because fresh fish often spend some time on ice post-harvest. Added to this, prompt processing, including the latest individual quick freezing (IQF) technologies, ensures that frozen fish arrive in peak condition, with all of their just-caught flavour, texture and key nutrients locked in.
At-source processing also means that a lot of products tend to require very little preparation when they are taken out of the home freezer.
Obviously, food consumption patterns depend on several factors, such as personal preference, habit, availability, economy, convenience, social relationship, ethnic heritage, religion, tradition, culture and nutritional requirement. According to available studies on seafood consumption, there is a clear need to develop more convenient, easy-to-cook, ready-to-eat, high value-added products.
At the same time, seafood in frozen formats will undoubtedly retain its popularity among consumers.
It is hard to predict exactly, how seafood consumer will look like in the near future. However, given a key role he plays in production and marketing decisions, consumer behavior trends, attitudes, preferences and perceptions of seafood will undoubtedly remain the subject of numerous studies with their results being scrutinized and discussed on the platforms of various seafood shows.
Join us at Seafood Expo Eurasia to explore the multifaceted fishery market, including the booming trend of frozen seafood. Connect with exhibitors, gain insights into consumer preferences, and stay updated on the latest industry advancements.