As consumers, we are all well versed to the instructions relating to eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day as part of a healthy diet. Mirroring this and becoming increasingly recognised by consumers, is a similar message about the regularity by which we should be consuming seafood in order to benefit from the many health related properties afforded by fish and shellfish – namely the message of ‘2 a week’.
The Food Standards Agency and wider health experts recommend eating two portions of seafood a week, one of which should be oil-rich such as mackerel, sardines, pilchards, fresh tuna, kippers or salmon, etc. The British Heart Foundation also promotes eating a weekly portion of oil-rich fish to help fight heart disease. However, research shows that 72% of UK adults do not know that it is recommended that they eat two portions of fish a week – and although a high proportion of consumers know that oil-rich fish is the most natural source of health benefit rich omega 3 fatty acids, only a fraction will regularly include it on their weekly shopping list.
Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of protein. They also provide a huge variety of different vitamins and minerals, which have important functions in the body. As mentioned, many species are also good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which have been proved to be invaluable to our health. Different fish and shellfish have different health benefits so, to make the most of these, we should vary the types we eat.
While many people don’t currently meet the 2 a week recommendation, research amongst consumers does point to the finding that once they are aware of the health benefits, it does encourage them to eat more fish than they already do.
In addition to the 2 a week campaign, is a growing trend of consumers becoming more flexible in the diets they follow – something often referred to as ‘flexitarian’; for example, only eating meat three days a week, or not eating carbohydrates after a certain time in the day. Pescetarianism is said to be one of the major ‘flexitarian’ trends for 2017 – with consumers endeavouring to regularly include fish and shellfish in such flexible diet regimes.
What then are the opportunities open to both retailers and foodservice providers on the back of such messaging and trends? In the past, many dining establishments might only have made a token gesture to including a couple of fish and shellfish dishes on their menu. However with an ever increasing variety of fish and shellfish readily available to today’s chef and customers ever interested in trying something new or different, there really is a great opportunity for such products to make up as much as 35 – 50% of standard mixed menus, across both starter and main courses.
As consumers in the UK, we have a tendency to focus our seafood consumption on five main species – salmon, tuna, cod, haddock and prawns – and yet on any one day it is estimated that there is in excess of 100 different species of fish and shellfish available to purchase in the UK; a veritable bounty from the seas.
The challenge for seafood retailers and foodservice providers is to inform and educate their customers on the health benefits of consuming fish and shellfish on a regular basis, as part of a balanced diet – along with celebrating the wide variety of flavours and textures involved in the eating of fish and shellfish.
With such a large variety of fish and shellfish species available to us in the UK, there really is no excuse not to try something new – good news for consumers’ taste buds and also their health!
For further ‘2 a week’ information and to find out more about the resultant benefits of eating fish and shellfish visit www.2aweek.co.uk.
Trade Marketing Manager