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Sustainable Seafood Glass: 65% Empty

The message when it comes to sustainable seafood in the marketplace is clear — consumers are unclear as to what exactly sustainable means. According to the “Consumer Insights on Sustainable Seafood” seminar today, the industry, and more specifically, retailers, need to step it up on the education front.

Research that was presented at the seminar today from the Perishables Group revealed that only one in five consumers recognize the sustainability message in the marketplace, and about 65% of consumers don't think about sustainability when purchasing seafood. Steve Lutz, vice president of the Perishables Group, referred to it as "a glass 65% empty."

Matt Owens, director of operations at FishWise, works with retailers in developing and implementing sustainable seafood programs and said that good messaging is key and that the price mark-up should be less than $3 in order to be effective with consumers.

“In the long term, I don’t think there should be a markup. I think what we’re working towards is industry change,” Owens said, adding that if sustainability were a business requirement, the additional costs would be spread out across the industry.

With staff training, color tags and information available at the counter, one retailer saw an increase in sales of and overall interest in sustainable seafood options, Owens said. Human health messaging has also proven to have a positive impact on sales.

“We need to look at messaging, demographic, and region, and find the best formula,” Owens said. In every case however, retailers need a department-wide approach and it needs to be credible and attainable, he added.

"There's little doubt that we need to know what consumers are thinking, said Cathy A. Roheim, a Professor of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Rhode Island, at the seminar. "If consumers don't buy in — literally, we won't get that far into it."