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Sainsbury’s sees sales of lesser known fish soar as the UK continues to Switch the Fish

02 August 2012

fish counter colleague

Today Sainsbury's has launched a major new study into fish consumption and attitudes in the UK which shows a marked shift in consumer buying habits as more and more people purchase lesser known, alternative fish which are more abundant in our oceans.

Following a year of high profile awareness campaigns of sustainable fish, including Sainsbury's own Switch the Fish initiative, a shift in fish buying habits has resulted in sales increasing across species including:

  • Seabass +57%
  • Fresh Pollack +15%
  • Trout +29%
  • Tilapia +117%

The Our future with fish report, commissioned by Sainsbury's and producedby the Future Foundation, predicts that this trend is set to continue as consumers make more informed and sustainable choices around the fish they eat. By 2030 over half (52%) of all fish products sold will be outside of the UK's most popular Big 5 species (cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns).

The report also reveals that the population will be eating more fish, with UK adults set to eat twelve extra fish meals a year by 2030 increasing their weekly consumption by 17% (from under 8 million kilograms today to 9.23 million kilograms by 2030). The so-called tradition Fish Friday is set to continue as meals have increased by 4.4% since 2008 and are predicted to rise from one-in-five today (21%) to one-in-four (25%) in the next ten years.

The Our future with fish report found that one of the primary drivers for increasing UK fish consumption is personal well-being, with 51% of people stating that health concerns have encouraged them to eat more fish over the last year. However the report also identified some of the key barriers to current fish consumption levels in the UK, these include a lack of recipe knowledge (35%), lack of availability of fresh fish in local shops (28%) and lack of time to prepare fish from scratch (28%).

Ally Dingwall, Sainsbury's Aquaculture and Fisheries manager said: "It is great to see more people broadening their minds and appetites by buying and cooking currently less familiar seafood. Doing so will help ensure we have sustainable supplies of this healthy, low-fat protein to eat in the future.

"We want to encourage more consumers to vary the fish and seafood in their diet which is why we commissioned the Our future with fish  report to build on our existing knowledge, to better understand why our customers have the current preferences they do and to look ahead at the future of fish being eaten in the UK.

"At Sainsbury's we recognise the important role retailers have to play to continue the debate and interest in sustainable, alternative fish choices. That is why we invest in campaigns such as Switch the Fish which help our customers make informed choices about the fish they buy and attempt to break down the key barriers that prevent consumers eating fish regularly."

Minster for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP added: "As the UK Fisheries Minister, my day to day work is focused on safeguarding our natural marine environment for future generations to enjoy. The UK is leading the way internationally to make sure that our seas and fish stocks stay healthy, and I'm delighted to see Sainsbury's hard work has resulted in a demonstrable change in consumer behaviour.

"There is still important work to do in Europe to mend the broken common fisheries policy which has contributed to the depleted state of our fish stocks. Fixing it means we will have a secure supply of fish as a healthy food source, without destroying fish stocks and damaging the marine environment.

"It's great to see Sainsbury's encouraging shoppers to adjust their individual behaviours and broaden their tastes away from the main five species of fish which are under such environmental pressure. Fish like Dab and Coley are just as delicious as some of the more well-known species."

Our future with fish infographic 520

Click the image for a high res version

Note to editors

  • Overview of report methodology: The report used a number of different research elements including an audit of existing quantitative research sources and extensive sales data, an original programme of nationally representative survey research among fish eating UK adults and an expert interview programme with specialists in three key areas: fisheries, nutrition, and behavioural change
  • Sales data: examined over at 24-month period, from 2010 through 2011
  • Sainsbury's is the largest retailer of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fish in the UK
  • Sainsbury's sells 100 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 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 fresh and frozen tuna is pole and line caught 
  • Sainsbury's sells the widest selection of regionally sourced fish on its counters, including Dab, Coley, British Pollack, MSC certified Cornish sardines to name but a few
  • 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
  • Sainsbury's salmon feeds do not contain any artificial colourants and only fish from well managed sources are included in the diet
  • Sainsbury's was awarded Seafood Retailer of the Year by the Retail Industry Awards in 2010
  • Sainsbury's is the biggest retailer of Freedom Food fish in the UK
  • The fish on our counters comes from over 100 British day boats and is always fresh, never frozen
  • Sainsbury's named Aquaculture Retailer of the Year 2011 in Scottish Marine Aquaculture Awards 2011
  • On 17th June 2011 Sainsbury's Switch the Fish initiative offered any customer asking for one of the 'Big 5' species, a sustainable, lesser known alternative for free. This unprecedented move allowed shoppers to try varieties such as pouting and coley in a risk-free way across Sainsbury's 387 fish counters.