Western Europeans Aren’t Eating as much Fresh Fish and Seafood

Global sales of fresh fish and seafood reached 102 million tonnes in 2016. With a 6% share of total global volume sales Western Europe ranked third after Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa (78% and 6% of global consumption, respectively).

Total regional sales continued their downward trend and fell by a further 1% in 2016, to 5.8 million tonnes. An annual average decline of 1% over 2011-2016 made Western Europe the worst performing region globally.

Reasons behind falling consumption

The growing focus on general health and wellbeing, and healthier diets in Western Europe has not translated into greater demand for fish and seafood, which are broadly recognised as a valuable source of the omega-3 fatty acids essential for healthy brain and cardiovascular function.

The primary barrier to more dynamic consumption is a lack of cooking skills and reluctance to handle and prepare meals from raw ingredients. The relatively high price of fresh seafood and limited availability in some retail channels and geographical areas further hampers demand.

Consumption of fresh fish and seafood by region

fresh fish and seafood by consumption in regions

Source: Euromonitor International

Molluscs and cephalopods suffers the most

Fish accounted for nearly 79% of overall fish and seafood volume sales in Western Europe in 2016, well ahead of molluscs and cephalopods (13%) and crustaceans (8%). There are regional variations in the balance of product groups within fish and seafood, depending on eating habits and national cuisines. In the UK, molluscs and cephalopods only account for 1% of overall fish and seafood, while in Spain their share stands at 22% and in France at 37%, due to the popularity of dishes such as paella, fried and grilled calamari and escargot.

Despite its staple status in regional diets, fish has been affected by fading demand. Per capita consumption contracted by 0.5kg over 2011-2016, from 9.7kg to 9.2kg. Crustaceans saw a total volume decline of 3% over 2011-2016, but molluscs and cephalopods experienced the most dramatic decline of nearly 7%. These types of seafood are not commonly eaten in many countries; moreover, fresh products lose out to processed and packaged alternatives that offer convenience of ready-to-eat formats.