The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Quick Poll Results: Fish Consumption

Quick Poll Results: Fish Consumption

Shoppers and Trends

June 27, 2010

The Lempert Report recently commented on the joint report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) which urged governments to improve their efforts emphasizing the benefits of eating seafood; specifically for brain and heart health. The American diet came under the most scrutiny in the report, as fish is especially lacking on our dinner plates – on average providing only about seven percent of animal protein versus 25% in Asian countries. The Lempert Report found this statistic particularly interesting and conducted a consumer panel Quick Poll to find out more about consumers' fish consumption habits as well as awareness of the general environmental and health issues related to fish.    

While 29% say the amount of fish they eat has stayed the same, the majority of the consumer panel (63%) has increased the amount of fish in their diet in the past year. Those who answered yes to eating more fish in the past year have done so because ‘it’s healthy’ (36%), ‘love the taste’ (24%), are ‘eating less meat (or other protein) and switching to fish' (15%), and to increase ‘Omega’ intake (13%). Nine percent say it’s easy to cook, while only three percent site news and media coverage on the benefits of eating fish as the reason for increased consumption. 
Where are consumers shopping or enjoying their fish? Forty-two percent say they are buying more fresh fish and cooking at home while 23% of respondents are buying frozen filets for home cooking, and 12% are ordering fish more often when eating out. Only four percent are eating more canned fish (except tuna) and two percent report buying more frozen fish entrees.
When asked how they prefer their fish prepared, the majority (46%) prefer their fish grilled, 32% enjoy it baked, and sautéed and fried fish tied at 12%. Sushi is only a preference among four percent of the consumer panel. 
Are consumers clued in about the general environmental impacts of consuming certain fish and fish products? The majority of the consumer panel (53%) ‘sometimes’ avoids certain fish for environmental reasons, 24% ‘always’ avoids certain fish, and 23% ‘never’ or doesn't know why you would avoid certain fish for environmental reasons. What about personal health impacts related to contaminants like mercury? The vast majority (82%) either sometimes or always avoids, while 16% eats the type of fish they desire no matter what.

When asked about farm-raised versus wild, 39% 'sometimes' and 29% 'always' purchase wild fish, which may be an indication that consumers are clued into resources like the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Program, which informs consumers about the best choices in fish including which are best purchased farmed and or wild.
A substantial amount of the consumer panel is reading the fine print, as 42 and 30% respectively say they always or sometimes avoid fish that contains added colors.
Supermarkets, CPGs and the food industry in general need to step up the fish promotion efforts while keeping sustainability and health in mind. Consumers are clued in, but clearly need advice, suggestions and reinforcement. As demonstrated by the quick poll results, consumers prefer to cook their fish at home. Providing cooking instructions and menu suggestions would help increase consumption and therefore purchases.


See our article on the Seafood Watch Program.