FishAround one in four seafood eaters cut back on seafood in the year to June 2010, according to Mintel’s consumer research.

Indeed, in volume terms the market is estimated to stand on a par with 2005 levels in 2010, as the volume growth seen in 2006 and 2007 was largely offset by a declining trend in the recession, under pressure from price inflation and tight consumer budgets.

However, the market enjoyed growth of 29% over the 2005-10 period to an estimated £3.2 billion, rising prices being the main driver of the robust value growth.

Fish continues to dominate the seafood market by a wide margin, shellfish capturing just £1 in £6 spent on seafood. Shellfish has, however, gained ground in the market, enjoying robust growth from a low basis on the back of improving availability and consumer tastes becoming more adventurous.

The chilled segment continues to capture more than 50p in every £1 spent on seafood in the UK, its performance reflecting strongly on the overall market. However, the frozen and ambient sectors have outperformed chilled in recent years in terms of value growth, thanks to their strong value image.

In terms of distribution, multiple grocers capture around more than £4 in every £5 spent on seafood, this strong position in seafood in line with their dominance of overall food spend.

Indeed, by stocking all variants of seafood from fish counters to ready-to-eat, the grocers are well positioned to appeal to all segments of the market.

Freshness and quality are top factors driving seafood choice, reflecting the importance of these not only to the eating experience but to food safety.

Price comes across as very important to three in five consumers, indicating that a sizeable minority of seafood consumers are open to selling points other than price.

Just one in three people see sustainability issues as very important in their seafood choice, falling far behind practical considerations, an equal share showing high interest in omega-3.

Despite being the broadest measure of the ‘greenness’ of seafood, sustainability ranks below the state of the species and dolphin-friendliness as a very important choice factor when buying seafood.

This seems to indicate that the more tangible, easy-to-understand issues, identifiable through labelling when shopping, tend to chime the most readily with consumers.

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