2008/779 Tracking seafood consumption and measuring consumer acceptance of innovation in the Australian seafood industry
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2008/779 Tracking seafood consumption and measuring consumer acceptance of innovation in the Australian seafood industry


By Nick Danenberg, Hervé Remaud and Simone Mueller


A key issue facing the Australian seafood industry is how to effectively promote and sell Australian seafood. This relies on building both mental and physical availability, by allowing consumers to mentally consider seafood products and to have them available when, where and in the forms consumers demand. This requires a strong focus on the consumer and the development of a comprehensive understanding of consumers’ behaviour, perceptions and motivations. The main aims of the research were to (1) measure seafood consumption levels and patterns including consumers' knowledge and preferences for seafood; (2) measure consumer acceptance and forecast the demand for a range of innovative seafood products, packaging, and services; and (3) determine the relative impact of different advertising, promotional messages and the extent those messages would be valued by the consumers.

The findings indicated that consumption of seafood in Australia is on average at recommended levels of 2.2 serves of seafood per week; however, over one-quarter of Australians (28%) are still consuming below recommended levels. Hence, the need to remind consumers to eat at least two full serves of seafood each week. The research indicates that Australians hold favourable attitudes toward seafood in terms of health benefits, taste and ease of preparation, and the majority of consumers are satisfied with their seafood purchases. Australian consumers strongly prefer Australian seafood over imported seafood; however, price remains the major barrier to increased consumption. Hence, the need to leverage favourable attitudes and investigate ways of improving the real and/or perceived affordability of Australian seafood (e.g. portion pricing), with one possible but challenging strategy being to stimulate consumption of undervalued species. Above all, Australian consumers value correct labelling of seafood and prefer to purchase from clean and reputable retailers.

Canned seafood is the most popular form of seafood for in-home consumption, accounting for 31 percent of in-home consumption occasions, followed by fresh fillets (18%) and pre-cooked fillets (12%). The supermarket is the most prevalent location for seafood purchases for in-home consumption, accounting for 65 percent of purchase occasions, followed by fishmongers at 9 percent of purchases. Prawns, barramundi and seafood buffet are the most popular seafood choices when dining at restaurants.

Analysis of choice for various undervalued species (school prawns, Australian salmon, latchet, silver warehou, sardines and mackerel) indicated that Australian consumers have entrenched behavioural preferences for a narrow selection of seafood species, and preference for most undervalued species (exceptions were school prawns and Australian salmon) is low, representing less than 5 percent of customers’ choices. Seeking to change consumers’ behaviour toward undervalued species with education or information will be a difficult and slow process, with Australian consumers not being very willing to move away from more familiar species.

Other important seafood offering attributes such as format and packaging vary in their level of importance across species. However, what is apparent, across all species tested, is that branding and marketing claims associated with sustainability accreditation, health claims, Masterchef recommendations, gold medals, accompaniments and serving suggestions, etc. have relatively little influence on consumer choice.