No other country in the Norwegian Seafood Council’s databases eats more seafood outside home than Singapore. Approximately 25% of all seafood consumption in the country, takes place away from home.

Singapore is a melting pot of nationalities, ethnicities, cultures and people. This affects both the food culture but also the eating habits of the 5.5 million, or so, inhabitants in this small, but richly diverse country. Salmon is by far the most popular fish in Singapore and is a frequent choice for consumers who are regular restaurant goers. Yet, home consumption is also increasing.

Higher salmon consumption than the rest of Asia

In line with the rest of Asia, seafood is very popular and forms an important part of the diet. Singaporeans are on a par with the rest of Asia in terms of the number of seafood meals eaten per year. The consumption of salmon, on the other hand, is higher here than average in Asia and there is especially high consumption outside the home.

Because of Singapore’s modest size and lack of both agricultural production and marine areas, almost all its food must be imported. This is also the case for seafood, where over 90% is imported from abroad. According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), annual seafood consumption is 21 kg per person, of which salmon accounts for almost 10%. Nevertheless, we saw a decline in the consumption of salmon last year. Increased prices and fewer promotions are probably contributing factors here.

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Photographer: NSC

Clearly the top choice

Despite a good selection of local and imported seafood, salmon is by far the most popular fish for home consumption, outside-the-home consumption and festivities. Ask a Singaporean seafood diner what fish they would like to eat and salmon is three times more popular than the next species on the list. Thus, salmon is the bestselling fish in both supermarkets and restaurants – especially Japanese restaurants where it is used as a raw fish. As a raw fish, salmon accounts for over 50% of total consumption.

One important reason for salmon’s popularity is that it is perceived as a healthy product, especially because of the high level of omega-3 oils. Other reasons for are that salmon tastes good, appealing, easy to eat due to the minimal amount of bones, as,well as its attractive colour. In addition, salmon is available all the year round.

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Home consumption is growing

However, the picture is not totally rosy Salmon is still eaten primarily outside of the home. However, consumer surveys conducted by the Norwegian Seafood Council show that home consumption is growing at a faster rate than outdoor consumption, as consumers have become increasingly accustomed to preparing salmon at home. In addition, about 30% of the people in Singapore are expats, including many Westerners who already have salmon as a regular part of their diet.

For large parts of the local population, the situation is a bit different. The evening meal often consists of many different dishes, where seafood is one of several protein sources. The fall in consumption due to increased prices has not been replaced by other types of salmon, or salmon from other nations. However, sea bass, barramundi and other fish species are possible substitutes, as they are also sold fresh and at competitive prices.

Environment and sustainability are becoming increasingly important

While there has been a resurgence in the importance of the health benefits associated with salmon, the importance of the environment protection and sustainability have grown. The fact that salmon is healthy has gradually established itself as a truth that consumers take for granted now. Moreover, awareness of the environment and sustainability is now increasing, especially among the younger generations. However, this phenomenon is not unique to salmon, but applies rather to seafood in general. 

In fact, Singapore has a clear strategy to be a pioneer in terms of environmental protection, recycling and sustainability. The aforementioned expat environment, is an important force behind this development, leading to an increase in the importance of environmental protection when purchasing seafood. Because of this, the corresponding figure of 7%, has doubled from 2014 to 2018.

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Photographer: NSC

Most part is sold through supermarkets 

The biggest share of seafood sold for home consumption, is channeled through modern supermarkets. However, some of the population, especially the elderly, prefer to buy fish from traditional markets. These are primarily located in more peripheral parts of the seafood market, which can be challenging in terms of hygiene and continuity in the refrigeration chain.

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Photographer: NSC

Potential for further growth

Despite existing high consumption, our view is that the Singapore market still has a potential for growth, especially in terms of home consumption. Salmon is perceived by locals as a ’western’ fish and is, therefore, often cooked in a more western way. However, more and more people are discovering how well salmon works with local tastes and dishes, so it will be more frequently used in household consumption.