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Survey says: Americans will splurge on sustainable seafood.

LRQA considers the implications around the recent Cargill Feed4Thought survey which highlighted that 88 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for seafood that is certified as sustainably and responsibly sourced.

Seafood is big business

The acquisition of Acoura into the LRQA [LR] group last December delivered a new service offer to their many thousands of food and beverage clients served worldwide - seafood assurance.

Seafood is big business; as LRQA client Cargill highlights in their June 2017 Feed4Thought consumer survey, seafood is in higher demand than ever before, with 82 percent of Americans adding salmon, shrimp and tilapia to their lunch and dinner plates. However, they won’t settle for just any seafood. They want to know where it’s coming from and that it was sourced responsibly, a theme that resonates with LRQA, as Martin Gill, Managing Director Acoura Marine explains, “Seafood assurance has a major role to play; the benefits of sustainable fisheries and fish farming and the need to mitigate the environmental impacts of fishing and aquaculture are increasingly in the public consciousness. The lack of properly implemented schemes has often failed to curb fishing effort, prevent overfishing and avoid environmental degradation.”

Helping consumers make the right choices

Alternative, market-based approaches have shown promise and, among these, enabling informed consumer choice in seafood purchasing can generate strong motivation for improved catching and culture practices. For this to work effectively good information is required about the provenance of the fish being purchased; that’s where assurance has a key role to play.

LRQA is the market-leader in the provision of assurance services against one of the best known standards, the MSC Sustainable Fishing and Chain of Custody Standards. “Whilst we deliver assessment services to a variety of different standards and schemes serving the seafood arena, MSC is one of the best known and widely adopted,” explained Gill.

The MSC standard has been developed by the Marine Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organisation established to address the problem of unsustainable fishing. Their mission is a fishery certification programme to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood and working with their partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis.

“Seafood businesses voluntarily seek certification to the relevant standard. These standards meet international best practice guidelines for certification and are primarily developed through consultation with the fishing industry, scientists, conservationists, experts and stakeholders,” explained Gill. “Taking the Marine Stewardship Council as an example, when you see seafood with the blue MSC label, you can be sure it has been independently judged and certified as coming from a sustainable fishery that has met the requirements of the MSC Standard.”

The past decade, has seen the emergence of a number of key national and supranational schemes including the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, GlobalG.A.P., Global Aquaculture Alliance, Label Rouge, Best Aquaculture Practice and the Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme in the UK - all of which are now a core part of LRQA's seafood assurance service offer. Whilst they may be different in scope and function differently, they all share a common purpose in that they are designed to provide consumers and the seafood supply chain with more and better information on the condition of fish stocks, the impacts of fishing and aquaculture practices on the environment and the effectiveness of fisheries and aquaculture management as well as the provenance and traceability of the products to help them make informed choices when buying seafood. “In addition, we deliver a range assurance services in relation to the social welfare of workers serving the fishing and aquaculture sectors - something that is of growing importance in the minds of consumers - and in turn retailers and their supply chains,” explained Gill. “We are increasingly seeing this as an integral part of retailers’ CSR efforts and, in turn, brand reputation as they can transparently demonstrate that they have human welfare at the heart of all that they do.”

These informed choices were captured in the Cargill survey, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. residents, found that 72 percent of American consumers believe seafood is important to their health and nutrition. Eighty-eight percent of those same consumers are willing to pay more for seafood that is certified as sustainably and responsibly sourced. This especially appeals to the younger generation, with 93 percent of millennials agreeing they are willing to pay more.

“The majority of American consumers believe seafood is important to their health and nutrition, but they also want to have peace of mind as to where it came from – and that’s where we can play an integral role,” said Einar Wathne, president, Cargill Aqua Nutrition. “We are committed to delivering healthy seafood for future generations, and we know we must do this in a way that is responsible and meets consumer preferences.”

Cargill Aqua Nutrition meets customer demand for sustainable, responsibly sourced feed

Cargill Aqua Nutrition produces feed for salmon, tilapia and shrimp in 18 countries and is dedicated to tailoring feed solutions to customers’ needs. It has 38 specialised aquaculture feed facilities and three dedicated innovation centres for aquaculture, which together produced 1.74 million tons of aqua feed in 2016. Cargill Aqua Nutrition provides 2.7 billion seafood meals from its salmon feed alone.

To meet customer demand for the highest standard feed, Cargill Aqua Nutrition supplies feed that meets the requirements of a number of industry certifications. Cargill facilities in Canada and Chile hold both Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) and GLOBAL Good Aquaculture Practice (GAP) certifications. Cargill plants in Scotland and Norway are Global GAP-certified, while factories in Honduras and Nicaragua are BAP-certified. Cargill Aqua Nutrition also supplies feed which meets the requirements of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), an organization focused on environmental and social responsibility in the farmed seafood supply chain. Cargill continues to work with ASC to develop feed standards for the future. LRQA - via Acoura - delivers both BAP and ASC certification services to Cargill, along with a range of other food safety assurance services.

“It is important that the seafood industry earns consumer trust,” said Avrim Lazar, convener of the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI). “That’s why we work very hard to meet third party, rigorous certification standards. Consumers deserve independent assurance that the seafood they eat is sustainable and responsibly sourced.”

The survey also found:

  • Out of the five seafood options given, 47 percent of Americans prefer shrimp (the majority).
  • Eighty-four percent of Americans trust that their seafood is sourced in a safe and responsible way.
  • Seventy percent of Americans say where and how their seafood is sourced impacts their purchase decision.

A commitment to sustainability

“We applaud the research from Cargill,” said Duane Wood, Marketing Director at LRQA Management Systems & Inspection Services and responsible for the global LRQA Food & Sustainability strategy. “The fact that 88 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for seafood that is certified as sustainably and responsibly sourced is a testament to the value of independent third party assurance.”

LRQA's commitment to sustainability goes further for at the heart of LRQA sits a charity, the LRQA Foundation (LRF). Not only is LRQA providing seafood assurance services but is also - through the LRF - working closely with scientists at Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in Holland to look at alternative ways to develop a safety assessment and to propose controls for the multiple, simultaneous uses of maritime space that would enable the safe creation of energy sources and food at sea using seaweed. Although seaweed has been used as food, fertiliser and animal feed for centuries, logistics and safety issues have limited large scale production. Yet seaweed farming presents significant opportunities: it is a sustainable and efficient source of protein; it’s a natural desalination process; it absorbs carbon dioxide; and its residue can be used to create energy through biomass.

“Most organisations do something to make money but at LRQA, we make money to do something,” explained Wood. “Along with the work that we do, our overarching goal is to modify market demand in a way that will support sustainability and ultimately benefit the environment and importantly keeps the consumer informed so that they know that they are making the right purchasing decisions - a key finding from the Cargill survey and very much aligned with LRQA's purpose of adding value to society.”

This article first appeared on www.cargill.com on August 17. Read their full report here.

Please note that as of January 2018, we have moved to the LRQA brand and retired the LRQA name.

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