The world’s seafood consumption has grown in recent years. From 2013 to 2016, consumption increased by over 20 million tonnes and, although we do not have the latest figures, there is every reason to believe that the growth continues. We also note changes within individual markets, which creates opportunities for Norway as a seafood nation.

Norway’s historical drop in the consumption of seafood and increase in meat consumption, is not representative for all our markets. The trend in Italy, for example, has been an increase in seafood consumption at the expense of meat. Expected growth in seafood consumption in China is about 1.3 million tonnes per year, which corresponds approximately to the total annual Norwegian production of salmon. Globally, consumption of seafood per person is on the increase. The FAO has estimated that under 10 kilos of fish were consumed per person in 1960. The figure today is over 20 kilos per person, and in countries like Norway, Portugal and South Korea, consumption is over 50 kg per person.

Seafood consumption

Photographer: NSC

National targets for seafood consumption

There are two considerations: one is how much seafood we eat, the other is how often we eat it (frequency). Frequency tells us about how we eat seafood, how the different species are positioned in the markets, and what future developments we can expect at a species level.

Globally, there are wide variations in how often people eat seafood. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Health Service in the United States recommend that seafood is eaten at least twice a week. The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends two to three meals, while other countries have even higher targets. The graph shows great variation in the proportion of seafood in people’s diets in different countries. Despite the fact that the two countries with the highest numbers are in Europe, Asia remains the leader when it comes to the number of recommended seafood meals per week.

Asia consumes the most seafood

If we compile figures from the FAO about the amount of consumption per capita, we find some clear trends. Those who eat seafood most often naturally have the highest per capita consumption.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of countries that eat seafood more than twice a week are in Asia. Several Asian countries have meals containing many smaller dishes, where seafood is included as a natural part of the meal. These countries, together with Portugal and Norway, also have the highest number of kilos consumed per person.

This is also seen in the United States, where persons of Asian descent have a higher per capita consumption than other ethnic groups. Asians also spend the most money on seafood.

If we compare continents, we find that consumers in Asia consume about 50% more seafood meals per capita per year than their counterparts in Europe and America. This ratio has remained quite stable over a five-year period. The interesting thing is to see that it has been a positive growth in the US, mainly related to the East and West Coasts. The numbers are very positive from a seafood perspective, considering the willingness shown in the US market to pay a high price.

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Photographer: NSC

The West eats cod, the East eats mackerel and EVERYONE eats salmon

Salmon and cod are of major importance in terms of seafood meals in Europe and the United States, while demand for mackerel is weaker in Europe and the United States than in Asia. Salmon is the global leader. This is hardly a surprise for the seafood industry, but as the country analysis in later chapters will show, it is still interesting to see how popular salmon has become and to what extent it is differentiated – from smoked in Germany, to raw in Japan and grilled in Norway.

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Photographer: NSC

Where is seafood consumed?

Despite the fact that the number of meals eaten is relatively stable, it is interesting to see that in some markets, meals are gravitating away from the kitchen table at home to cafés and restaurants. The financial crisis 10 years ago resulted in a change in consumption patterns. The economic uncertainty that followed the crisis led to more people choosing to eat at home.

In a time where economic optimism is on the rise, both at a personal and national level, we can now observe see a positive trend in the proportion of seafood  meals eaten outside the home. This trend has been particularly evident over the past six years in Europe, but we also see it in Asia, and to some extent in Brazil. In the United States, there is a positive trend in terms of consumption, both in and out of the home. Today, people eat seafood outside the home more in Asia and the United States than in Europe.

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Photographer: NSC

Why choose seafood?

There are many good reasons to choose seafood. The Seafood Council has systemised and categorised most of them to gain insight into the main drivers of seafood consumption and how they change over time.

Surveys show that many consumers want products that are easy or do not take long to prepare. At the same time, they must be tempting and enjoyable. Furthermore, there is a health aspect to seafood that many consumers value and which guides their decisions when shopping for or eating food. In recent decades, there has been an ever increasing focus on the health-related properties of foods. For many consumers, it does not matter if the product tastes good and is easy to prepare if it is not sustainable and safe to eat as well.

By analysing these four main trends, we are able to see that the population in different parts of the world are motivated by these reasons to different degrees. In general, people say that they choose seafood because it tastes good and because it has health benefits. But there are variations. In Europe, consumers are more concerned about faster preparation than they are in Asia. Inspiration is also more important, which suggests that seafood in Europe is not such an integral part of the meal as it is in Asia. Conversely, it is interesting to see that the Asians are much more concerned about the seafood being safe to eat, as a result of contamination and food scandals in some Asian markets. So, while enjoyment of seafood is more important for Europeans, especially on special occasions, food safety is more of a priority in Asia.

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Photographer: NSC

Since Norway is the world’s second largest seafood exporter after China, it has been important to try to create a preference for Norwegian seafood amongst consumers at home and abroad. Norwegian seafood resources are some of the best managed in the world, come from cold, clear waters, and are handled in the best possible way. As a result, our products have the right flavour, preserve their health benefits, and are fully sustainable.

These are characteristics that are important to consumers all around the world. Therefore, Norway is one of the preferred countries of origins for Seafood in the vast majority of markets. The preference for Norwegian fish is high in most markets and extends across all Norwegian species.

Still, salmon stands out. For almost all markets where Norwegian salmon is present, Norway is first or second choice when people are asked where they prefer their salmon to come from. If Norwegian salmon is second choice, this is largely due to more highly rated domestic salmon production (such as in the UK). This also represents untapped potential for the Norwegian seafood industry. The positive associations the world has regarding Norwegian salmon can be transferred to other species of seafood. Through origin labelling, Norway as a seafood nation can capitalise on the preference for Norwegian products.

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Photographer: NSC