Drive to lure consumer into far wider choice of seafood

SALES of lesser-known species of fish are rising as people become more adventurous in the kitchen and more willing to step outside their comfort zone, according to new research.

The Future Fish report predicts that for the Big 5 – tuna, cod, salmon, haddock and prawns – will account for less than half of Britain’s food consumption by 2030.

Its findings could be good news for the Scottish fishing industry, which currently exports much of its catch to Mediterranean.

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Alan Coghill, president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “It is good to see people are going to be eating more fish. But I think we need to get better at promoting what we have here in Scotland.”

He said Scottish fish was among the best in the world, but that it tended to be a premium product which suffered during a recession. Problems in the Eurozone were hitting exports, making it more important than ever to develop new markets.

According to the report, the fish which has seen the biggest increase in sales is tilapia, a fish farmed in the Far East which has seen demand more than double – increasing by 117 per cent. Consumption of sea bass has risen by 57 per cent while fresh pollock has seen a 15 per cent rise in sales.

Health concerns are helping to drive UK adults to eat more fish, with people expected to increase their weekly consumption by 17 per cent by 2030. The tradition of fish on Friday is predicted to make a comeback over the next ten years.

More than half those questioned (51 per cent) say health concerns are leading them to eat more fish but more than a third (35 per cent) say they are unsure of how to cook it. More than a quarter of those asked say lack of time for food preparation and the lack of availability of fresh fish puts them off buying it.

Jess Sparks, environmental and technical manager for Seafood Scotland, says: “We find it encouraging that consumers are considering a wider choice of seafood. Scotland catches a diversity of species throughout the year and offers an exciting platter for those who are prepared to try something new.

“In addition to firm favourites like Scottish haddock and salmon, species like mussels and coley (saithe) are available all year round and make a good sustainable choice.

“Seafood Scotland encourages people to try something new, whether it’s langoustines which are under-appreciated in the UK but are Scotland’s most abundant shellfish, or megrim, a superb but little-known flatfish that is mostly exported to Europe where it is highly appreciated. Crab, mussels, herring, whiting and hake are just a few of the other healthy and good sustainable choices.

“People’s tastes are changing, and if we can encourage consumers to be more adventurous, then that’s great for everyone; seafood lovers, suppliers and our industry.”

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 preferences they do.”