The United Kingdom eats the most cod and haddock in the world, but now salmon is on its way to being the first choice for weekday dinners.

The United Kingdom is an important market for Norwegian whitefish. The British state that they eat seafood 96 times during the year, and on various occasions. This is on a par with Europe in general. Fifteen of these meals are eaten outside the home.

They eat the most cod and haddock in the world

The special thing about British consumers, as most people know, is their inherent love for fish and chips. Cod and haddock are the species used in the dish, making the United Kingdom the nation that eats  the most Atlantic cod in the world. Analysis show that cod and haddock are substitutes in the United Kingdom, which means that British consumers tend to consume more haddock when cod prices increase.

This is something we observed in 2018. The British eat about 30 cod meals a year, compared to the European average of 18. Haddock is virtually exclusive to the British, with 20 meals being eaten a year, compared

to an average of two meals a year in Europe. Shrimp (both cold and warm water shrimp) are also more important for the British than for Europeans in general. The British eat 22 shrimp meals a year, compared to six in Europe. In the United Kingdom, shrimp are eaten as part of salads, pasta, and the like, but rarely as the main ingredient in a meal.

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Photographer: NSC

Despite a long history of fishing, the British are heavily dependent on imports to meet the demand for cod, haddock, shrimp and salmon. Figures from 2016 show that 28% of the cod, 41% of the haddock and as much as 44% of the salmon consumed by the British are from Norway. They have limited home-grown production of both cod and haddock, while producing a lot of their own salmon. The British are, therefore, highly dependent on imports, including from Norway. The United Kingdom is a very important market for Norway, and certainly the most important market for Norwegian haddock.

The Norwegian Seafood Council also charts what fish consumers will consider eating and normally choose for dinner on weekdays, on weekends, and when they eat outside in restaurants. Here, cod and salmon are in first place. These species are in a league of their own, with a preference of 31% and 29% respectively. Haddock follows as the third most popular species. When they make dinner on weekdays, 10% of the British like to eat haddock.

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Photographer: NSC

Salmon is also a contender on weekdays

Looking at trends in preferences for different species, we see that it is only a matter of time before salmon passes cod as the most preferred kind of fish for dinner on weekdays. Salmon is the most popular species in most markets that the Norwegian Seafood Council has data on. This is because it is perceived as usable for several dishes, and scores high on taste, colour and availability. Our prediction is, therefore, that salmon will surpass cod in the United Kingdom in 2019, and will become the most popular fish for the British at dinner. It is important to emphasise that this is a subjective number (attitude) and not what is actually being bought.

Besides what the British like to eat for dinner at home on weekdays, it is interesting to see what they prefer at weekends and when they eat out in restaurants.

Here we observe that salmon is preferred to cod for dinner at home at weekends, while cod is the most popular fish when the British eat out, with salmon  and shrimp in second and third place. This is also confirmed by findings from focus groups carried out in the United Kingdom in the spring of 2018, in which the consumers stated that they closely associate salmon with weekends and parties.

Besides what the British like to eat for dinner at home on weekdays, it is interesting to see what they prefer at weekends and when they eat out in restaurants.

Here we observe that salmon is preferred to cod for dinner at home at weekends, while cod is the most popular fish when the British eat out, with salmon  and shrimp in second and third place. This is also confirmed by findings from focus groups carried out in the United Kingdom in the spring of 2018, in which the consumers stated that they closely associate salmon with weekends andparties.

Seafood sold at the supermarket

Most of the seafood in the United Kingdom is sold in supermarkets and hypermarkets, but in recent years discount price chains have taken a share, especially when it comes to fresh seafood.  Aldi and Lidl have a larger market share of salmon sales than total seafood. Fishmongers and other retailers account for 2% and 9% of all seafood sales in the United Kingdom respectively. This reflects well what the British answer is as to where they buy Norwegian species such as cod, salmon and fjord trout. Some 80% of people say that they usually buy salmon and cod at supermarkets or hypermarkets, while about 10% also buy from fishmongers or delicatessens, which are considered more premium. Fjord trout is also bought by the majority of buyers from the supermarket or hypermarket, but for this species, fishmongers and delicatessens play a much more important role.

Smaller portions, but a little more often

Focus groups with British consumers held in May 2018 show that there are signs of change in the purchasing patterns. The British seem to purchase seafood in smaller portions, but with a higher frequency. This is especially evident for fresh goods, which many retailers are targeting. So, in addition to the more classic planned week purchasing, more people tend to visit supermarkets also for that day’s dinner. Salmon and other fresh seafood are often bought this way. The British want to know that they will actually use the fresh items on the same day they are bought.

Convenience is more important than taste

The British want seafood fast and easy, more than anyone else in the world. In fact, convenience (43%) is more important when choosing seafood than inspiration or taste (40%). Thus, it is perhaps not so strange that the United Kingdom is the market that has come the furthest in terms of freshly prepared seafood and fresh, ready-made meal solutions.

If we compare it with other seafood markets in Europe, the Germans rate convenience at 26% and enjoyment at 50%, the French at 32% and 38% respectively, and lastly, the Spaniards at 27% and 50% respectively.

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Photographer: NSC

“Safe and sustainable”

An important trend that we see in the United Kingdom (as in the rest of the world) is that “safe and sustainable” is becoming an increasingly important driver when choosing seafood. Although only 18% of British people state that they prioritise this when buying seafood, it is on the rise. Analysis shows that this has a strong connection with how much seafood an individual eats. Those who think “safe and sustainable” is important eat more seafood than others.

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Photographer: NSC

The British have limited knowledge about production and Norway as a country of origin

The level of knowledge regarding seafood production is low in the United Kingdom, as shown by recent surveys from 2018. The British only make assumptions about the production process and generally have very limited knowledge of how the food is made and where it comes from.

The British do not have particular preferences for country of origin. More than two in five people say that they “do not know” when asked about which country they would like their seafood to come from. Those who do have a preference, for the most part, express a preference for Scotland or the United Kingdom. Only 8% say that they prefer Norway, which is a much lower level than Norway achieves in most other European markets.

The British do not have particular preferences for country of origin. More than two in five people say that they “do not know” when asked about which country they would like their seafood to come from. Those who do have a preference, for the most part, express a preference for Scotland or the United Kingdom. Only 8% say that they prefer Norway, which is a much lower level than Norway achieves in most other European markets.

However, this does not mean that the British have a negative view of Norway. Around 72% of people say that they believe that salmon from Norway is of good or very good quality, and Norwegian seafood and salmon has a relatively good reputation. The United Kingdom is a market where education should be used to make people more engaged about their seafood purchases.