Pangasius has become almost non-existent in the Spanish seafood market. This gives coalfish the opportunity to position itself as a sustainable everyday fish with good value for money.

Changes at Spanish supermarkets

Spaniards eat seafood 121 times a year. Although this is less than their seafood-loving neighbours in Portugal and France, it is still well above the average in Europe.1 In fact, Spain is the sixth largest consumer market for Norwegian fish and the fourth largest salmon market measured by volume.

Restaurant-happy Spaniards

Few people in Europe eat as much seafood outside the home as the Spaniards, who eat about 1 in 5 seafood meals away from home. This means that the Spaniards have the highest consumption outside the home – along with the Italians, among others.

This can be explained by the Spaniards’ long tradition of having lunch and dinner outside the home. Another contributing factor is the large number of sushi restaurants – joined lately by a number of new poke restaurants, which have also had an impact. At traditional restaurants, seafood is a small part of a larger meal. In the case of salmon, however, it is often the opposite case – salmon is the main ingredient of a meal and is often offered as a cutlet.

An opportunity for increased home consumption We know that a larger share of salmon is eaten at restaurants than for other seafood. Because of this, the Norwegian Seafood Council believes that salmon is under-represented at dinner tables in Spain compared to other seafood. This presents an opportunity. We believe that there is great potential for further growth in the grocery market over the years to come, but this will depend, among other things, on a larger product range.

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Photographer: NSC

Inadequate availability and simple solutions

We are seeing a trend where both environmental considerations and convenience have become drivers for buying seafood. This tells us that there is a challenge to find seafood products that are easy and fast to prepare in Spain. From the graph, we can tell that consumers buy seafood not because of but in spite of the products being inconvenient. Spain is known as a whole-fish market, which means that a seafood meal requires more time and knowledge about preparation than simpler ready meals.

If we see this in connection with the fact about salmon not being a common fish for home consumption, one of the solutions to this challenge will be an increased focus on product development and simpler products. Since the Norwegian market share for salmon is over 90%, this will directly affect Norwegian players.

Around 90% of people say that health is an important reason for buying seafood. The corresponding figure for France and Italy is 70%.

Spain is historically a whitefish market

Historically, cod generally does well in Spain. However, the number of cod meals is far lower than expected considering consumer preferences and cod's past success. Fresh cod makes up 19 annual meals, comprising less than 15% of the total number of seafood meals. In addition, skrei is also popular.

Cod – both fresh, salted and frozen – faces a significant challenge in the future. Compared to the size of the total cod market, there are relatively few consumers who categorise cod as a species they prefer.

In view of this, it is likely that cod will decline in the future. Those who do not have a high preference for cod today, but who still buy it, will eventually replace their cod dinner with meat or other fish species.

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Photographer: NSC

Skrei remains strong

Skrei has shown that this trend can be bucked and enjoys a very strong position. The challenge now has to be to get the rest of the whitefish category into the same position, 365 days a year. This will require improved visibility and awareness for whitefish, as well as product development that will ensure better in- store visibility and improved distribution in the market.

Coalfish as a challenger

Coalfish can be a major contributor to the fresh whitefish offering from Norway. In 2016, pangasius was a significant seller on the Spanish whitefish market. In 2016, approximately 19,000 tonnes of this species was sold in Spain.2 With the pangasius, the consumer got a whitefish at a significantly lower price than any other fish sold on the market. This made it very popular both in grocery stores and in the restaurant segment. It was mainly used for lunch dishes. Traditional Norwegian species like salmon and cod are too expensive for the usual 10-15 euro lunches.

After a negative focus on the environmental challenges of pangasius farming, volumes have now fallen to below 2,000 tonnes. This fall has not been balanced by other seafood, so coalfish could be a real challenger, even if this implies achieving a higher price than the pangasius.

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Photographer: NSC

If this is to be successful, the Norwegian industry must reach out to the Spaniards and make them aware of a fish that they do not know; a fish with somewhat more greyish meat than what consumers are used to today. The Norwegian Seafood Council believes that the Spanish consumer already eats dishes in which coalfish can be used. We also believe that coalfish, through a positioning of “more taste for your money”, will be very attractive to the restaurant segment. When coalfish also acquires a good environmental label through the MSC, prominent market visibility can turn it into a significant whitefish species.

Changes to where seafood is purchased

Spain is following the same trend as the rest of Europe. Grocery stores are doing well at the expense of fish markets and specialist channels (fishmongers and others). It should be noted, however, that both fish markets and fishmongers continue to remain an important sales channel – absolutely and in relation to the rest of Europe.

However, there are several trends that can change the present situation. E-commerce is one such trend. Currently, the traditional grocery store dominates the market. Fishmongers, however, will launch their own e-commerce solution that may turn them into a competitor.

The traditional hypermarkets, which historically have been important channels for fresh seafood, are losing market share. This trend is likely to continue, partly because large Spanish cities will introduce more carfree zones in 2019. There will be driving bans for diesel cars on specific days, as well as other measures against increased traffic. This is important for seafood, as in hypermarkets you traditionally find a lot of fish coolers with fresh seafood. Less trade in fresh fish dishes can lead to an increase in pre-packaged seafood products.

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Photographer: NSC