Sainsbury’s helps the nation Switch the Fish

By Judith Batchelar on 23 January 2013

stanway fish counter

On Friday 25th January 2013, Sainsbury’s is set to give away seven tonnes of lesser known British fish (lemon sole, mussels, Cornish sardines, coley fillets and loch trout fillets) to encourage customers to expand their food repertoire and eat alternative species. ‘Switch the Fish Day’ is part of the retailer’s continued commitment to sustainable fish.

When a customer asks for one of the Big Five species (cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns) at the fish counter on ‘Switch the Fish Day’ they can try a lesser known alternative for free*. The launch builds on the success of Sainsbury’s first ‘Switch the Fish Day’ in 2011 which saw sales of fish soar by 12% across fish counters on the day. Following the campaign sales of alternatives increased with rainbow trout +42% and coley +11.4%, while 8 tonnes of megrim sold – a specie that 85% of the population had never heard of before, according to Sainsbury’s research.

The Switch the Fish campaign launches alongside new research from Sainsbury’s which shows cookbooks aimed at families and children continue to encourage the consumption of the Big Five species. The research, which analysed the top 25 children’s and family cookbooks in the UK, shows that 78% of all fish recipes required one of the Big Five species. Across all fish recipes salmon was the most commonly featured fish (25%), followed by prawns (14%) and tuna (14%). Of the 22% of recipes which contained alternative species, mackerel came out on top, included in 5% of all fish recipes, followed by trout and seabass (2% each). Perhaps most worrying, only three books across the whole sample, contained messages about sustainability and the importance of using lesser known species.

Sainsbury’s hopes that the Switch the Fish campaign will better help educate consumers about making sustainable choices. As part of Sainsbury’s commitment, 18,000 counters colleagues have gone through training at the Sainsbury’s food colleges.

Justin King, Sainsbury’s CEO said: “Sainsbury’s is committed to fishing responsibly and helping change UK fish eating habits.  We know our customers care about responsibly sourced food and this is a great opportunity for them to try some alternative British fish for free.

This year Switch the Fish is set to be bigger, together with our colleague training and partnership with Fishermen’s Mission, we are working towards sustainable fish for the future.”

Commenting on the research, author of children’s cookbook series Florentine and Pig, Eva Katzler said: “It’s vital that we engage children with the principles of good food from a young age. Teaching them about the importance of sustainability, nutrition and sensible eating in their formative years will help shape the mindset of future generations. Sainsbury’s Switch the Fish campaign is a great way for families to try new species of fish, which are just as delicious as the most popular varieties, and will help them better understand the importance of making sustainable choices”

Also launched on ‘Switch the Fish Day’ is a new partnership with Fishermen’s Mission, a charity that offers support to fishermen and their families in times of crisis. For three weeks from 25th January, Sainsbury’s will donate 5p from every pack sold of the five alternative species to the charity, hoping to raise over £13,000 which will cover the cost of the mission’s work in the South West of England for over a month.  Money raised will be used for services including visiting injured fishermen, supporting families and providing 24/7 emergency help for working fishermen. For the duration of the three-week campaign, all Sainsbury’s fish counters will offer customers a free Switch the Fish booklet with recipes and tips for cooking and preparing fish.

This launch is the latest in a series of high profile awareness campaigns of sustainable fish, which included Sainsbury’s first Switch the Fish initiative in 2011. It also follows a major study from Sainsbury’s into fish consumption and attitudes in the UK. The ‘Our future with fish’ report revealed a marked shift in consumer buying habits as more and more people purchase lesser known, alternative fish which are more abundant in our oceans and that by 2030 over half (52%) of all fish products sold will be outside of the UK’s most popular Big Five species.

Switch the Fish with Judith

Minster for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP is supporting the campaign and said: “Until we can find more types of sustainable fish on the supermarket shelves, our old habits will remain, so  I’m delighted  that Sainsbury’s is encouraging consumers to try different species of fish with their innovative ‘Switch the Fish’ campaign. Consumers and retailers like Sainsbury’s have huge power through the choices they make to help us achieve healthy fish stocks and this is exactly the sort of initiative that will give people an incentive to buy differently in the future.”

Sainsbury’s is Britain’s biggest retailer for certified sustainable fish and by 2020, all fish that Sainsbury’s sells will be independently certified as sustainable. This forms part of Sainsbury’s 20x20 Sustainability Plan which is made up of 20 stretching goals that Sainsbury’s has committed to achieve by the year 2020, including sourcing our products responsibly, preserving our environment for the long haul and offering our customers healthier shopping baskets.

Species that Sainsbury’s will be giving away for free as part of the Switch the Fish campaign are:

Lemon Sole: Low in fat and high in protein, lemon sole is a flat fish with delicate, sweet flesh – delicious when cooked on the bone, as it retains flavour and moisture. While it doesn’t actually taste of lemon, with a flavour that’s similar to haddock, it can also be used as an alternative in any recipe that calls for Dover sole.

Mussels: Quick and easy to cook, mussels can be turned into an impressive meal in minutes with very little preparation. Mussels from the counter are alive when bought, so don’t buy them too far ahead. Our MSC-certified mussels are rope-grown, which means they don’t have any grit in them. Mussels are safe and easy to eat straight out of their shells – the ultimate convenience food!

Cornish sardines: Sardines (also known as pilchards) are an oil-rich fish naturally high in Omega-3, and they also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals. Ours come from an iconic fishery in Cornwall that’s been exporting fish since 1555! They’re MSC-certified and available fresh from our fish counters from July to February.

Coley fillets: Coley is one of the best-value white fish available, with a great flavour and lovely meaty flakes. A member of the cod family, it has a natural off-white colour which disappears on cooking – don’t be put off, top chefs aren’t! Ours is landed in Scotland, and sold fresh on our fish counters as fillets.

Loch trout fillets: The loch trout is actually a large rainbow trout that has been reared in a seawater environment. It is high in healthy Omega-3 with stunning orangey-pink flesh. A great alternative to salmon, it’s hugely versatile and can be cooked whole or as fillets. Fillets can be bought from our fish counters, and are also available, pre-packaged, in our fish aisle.

 Notes to Editors

  • *Whilst stocks last – offer limited to one free portion of lemon sole, mussels, Cornish sardines, coley fillets or Loch trout fillets per customer, per transaction, subject to availability.  Free portion of fish must be scanned at the checkout for the discount to be applied.
  • Money off coupons available from the Switch the Fish booklet entitling customers to £1 off when they spend £5 or more on any purchase that includes at least one of the 5 alternative species at any of Sainsbury’s fish counters in February and March
  • Cookbook research analysed the 25 bestselling children and family cookbook according to in December 2012
  • Sainsbury’s is the largest retailer of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fish in the UK and its commitment to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish extends right across our range, from Basics fish fingers to Taste the Difference Wild Alaskan Salmon.
  • Sainsbury’s sells over 130 products carrying the MSC logo, covering fish counters to ready meals
  • Sainsbury’s has been rated Number 1 by Greenpeace for the responsible sourcing of canned tuna in 2008 and again in 2011.
  • Sainsbury’s supports the use of more selective fishing methods to minimise environmental impacts and bycatch This has been very successful in the South West where new nets have reduced unwanted bycatch by 50%.
  • All of Sainsbury’s own brand canned tuna and all own brand canned tuna in further processed foods (i.e. sandwiches, sushi and ready meals) is pole and line caught.
  • In 2008, Sainsbury’s launched its responsibly sourced salmon which is specially reared on RSPCA Freedom Food approved farms on the West Coast and Islands of Scotland.
  • All of Sainsbury’s fresh and frozen cod and haddock is line caught which significantly reduces bycatch,
  • Sainsbury’s was awarded Seafood Retailer of the Year by the Retail Industry Awards in 2010,



About the article

  • Posted on: 23 January 2013
  • Type of article: Press release