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Giving into the Growing Appetites and Customer Demand for Seafood

Barramundi with Chorizo Vinaigrette

Americans are eating more seafood than ever before, but it’s still not enough to take full advantage of its massive health benefits and sustainability. Samuels, in partnership with the restaurants it services, knows we can change that. And there’s no catch, consumers are already seeking out more nutritious, heart-healthy, protein options. We live in a more connected and educated age, where customers are taking control over every aspect of their health and nutrition. In fact, more than one in three U.S. consumers are following a specific diet or eating pattern according to the 13th Annual Food and Health Survey released by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation.

These diets, whether classic or a new trend, prioritize seafood and have consumers demanding more options. With the rise of diets like Paleo and Keto, Americans are seeking healthy-fats, high-protein, and low-carbs – and there are no signs of this changing. In fact, the global keto diet specifically will “register an annual growth rate of more than 5% by 2022,” according to Reportlinker.

Other popular diet trends are based on cultures where their meals are heavily seafood based with an emphasis on cutting red meat like the Nordic diet, the Asian diet, and the two time winner of the U.S. News and World Report’s best diets rank, the Mediterranean diet.

Even classic diets such as the newly revamped WW (Weight Watchers) emphasize healthier proteins like seafood and count fish and shellfish as lower point values than red meat. Not to mention, Pescatarianism, which is continuously on the rise because Americans are dining on light, healthy, and local foods in addition to craving the unique health benefits from seafood that don’t exist in other proteins.

Seafood consumption has shown to improve energy, metabolism, and brain and joint function, as well as prevent chronic diseases. In fact, according to Nielsen’s 2018 Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey, “60% of Americans say they make conscious dietary choices to help prevent conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.”

Even if not specifically for a diet, 63% of Americans say they’re trying to eat healthier, and Seafood is trending, because protein is deeply intertwined with health in America. According to Nielsen research, “55% of U.S. households say high protein is now an important attribute to consider when buying food.”

Nutritionists all agree that fish is an excellent source of protein without the lipid issues of red meat and customers are starting to understand that. 66% of American consumers agreed that “fish is healthier than meat or chicken.” A 2017 Nielsen survey says 29% of Americans view seafood as a primary source of protein, but 19% plan to consume more fish and 22% plan to eat less red meat.”

Well, if all the intentions are good, what’s the issue? We need to educate the consumer. The Food Marketing Institute’s first-ever Power of Seafood survey states that “48% of seafood consumers say there is not enough information available to them about seafood.” This includes flavor profile, species, and sustainability. Consumers are also voicing the desire for a larger variety of options on menus. There are more than one hundred edible seafood species, so there are plenty of options underused options such as Barramundi or Hawaiian Kanpachi.

Younger consumers in particular want more seafood options too. Technomic found that “62% of respondents aged 18 to 34 wanted restaurants to offer a wider variety of seafood, with 56% also saying they sought out more ethnic seafood dishes, and 55% said they sought seafood entrées with new or unique flavors.”

Lastly, we just aren’t prioritizing our seafood options in order to drive growth. For many retailers and restaurants, now is the perfect time. Lent, the six-week period between Ash Wednesday and Easter when many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays, offers an opportunity to increase seafood sales. In fact, “U.S. retailers generated $1 billion in seafood sales during Lent last year.” Offering more seafood options in this time period and going forward could help keep this number up.

“Consumers want to eat healthier but they can’t do it alone,” says Andrew Mandzy, Director of Strategic Health and Wellness Insights at Nielsen. Seafood is easy and profitable for restaurants, delicious, and provides health benefits that consumers want – so it’s a win-win. The first steps are being open to new options, providing guidance and education to guests and staff, and showcasing flavor, sustainability, and species information when possible. By doing this, we can give the customers what they want and not only help them meet their goals but become partners with them on their health journey.