Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 15

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

www.emeraldinsight.com/0007-070X.htm

Does fish origin matter to


European consumers?
Insights from a consumer survey in Belgium,
Norway and Spain

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?
535

Filiep Vanhonacker
Department of Agricultural Economics, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium

Themistoklis Altintzoglou and Joop Luten


Nofima Marine, Troms, Norway, and

Wim Verbeke
Department of Agricultural Economics, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
Abstract
Purpose This study aims to gain insights into the relevance and market potential of fish origin
(farmed or wild) among consumers in Belgium, Norway and Spain.
Design/methodology/approach Cross-sectional data were collected through a consumer survey
(n 1; 319), conducted in November-December 2007 in three European countries: Belgium, Norway
and Spain. The study describes personal and food characteristics, as well as consumer attitudes and
knowledge related to fish origin. Further, these characteristics were analysed in terms of their impact
on the choice of either farmed or wild fish, using bivariate analyses.
Findings In general, European consumers have little knowledge or awareness regarding the
origin of fish. This results in uncertainty in consumers perception of farmed fish in particular. The
study is in line with previous ones suggesting that perceptions of aquaculture and farmed fish are
based more on emotions than on rational considerations. Still, the perception of farmed fish is
positive in general. Consumers do not prioritise fish origin as an information cue, although
variation is present between different consumer groups. Consumers of predominantly farmed
versus wild fish did not have a very distinct profile, which corroborates with the only modest
significance of fish origin as a product-specific information cue during the fish purchase and
consumption decision process.
Originality/value The strength of the paper pertains to its international scope, and to the diversity
of countries selected in terms of relevant variables. Also, the growing relevance of aquaculture as a
fish production method and farmed fish as a food product makes results and findings of the study
topical and of practical relevance.
Keywords Fish farming, Consumer behaviour, Europe, Market value, Product information,
Individual perception, Spain
Paper type Research paper

The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support received from the European
Commission through its Sixth Framework Programme Coordination Action CONSENSUS
(FOOD-CT-2005-513998) and the COST Action FA-0802 Feed for Health. The authors further
thank Marie Cooper from Nofima for her assistance during language revision and editing of the
paper.

British Food Journal


Vol. 113 No. 4, 2011
pp. 535-549
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0007-070X
DOI 10.1108/00070701111124005

BFJ
113,4

536

Introduction
It is generally acknowledged that fish is an important part of a healthy and balanced
diet (World Health Organization, 2003). A high level of interest among European
consumers in health and healthy eating (Pieniak et al., 2008b), higher living standards
and a good overall image of fish have yielded an increase in fish consumption
(FAOSTAT, 2008). Combined with an increasing world population and an expected
further increase in per capita fish consumption (Failler, 2007) capture fisheries alone
may no longer succeed in meeting the world demand for fish in a sustainable manner.
The rapidly developing aquaculture sector provides the necessary complement to
capture fisheries (Cahu et al., 2004). Aquaculture is defined as the cultivation of marine
and aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and water plants
(European Commission, 2008; Kautsky et al., 2000). Over the last decades aquaculture
has grown rapidly from a rather marginal production method to the fastest growing
sector of the food industry at the present time (FAO, 2006; Kole et al., 2007). In 1950
world aquaculture production accounted about 64,000 ton (3 per cent of the global
seafood production) and grew to more than 65 million ton in 2007 (42 per cent of global
seafood production) (FAO, 2007; Ponte, 2008; Subasinghe et al., 2009).
Consumers wariness towards new production methods (Evans and Cox, 2006;
Frewer, 1999) and their sensitivity to negative information (Verbeke and Ward, 2001),
consumer attitudes, opinions and perceptions towards aquaculture can steer the success
and acceptance of products from aquaculture. Previous research has already focused on
consumer perceptions of fish products in general without making a distinction between
fish of either wild or farmed origin (e.g. Bruns, 2003; Pieniak et al., 2008b), or involved
sensory studies in which farmed fish was evaluated against wild fish, whether or not
combined with information (e.g. Farmer et al., 2000; Kole et al., 2009; Luten et al., 2002).
In general a low consumer awareness of fish origin has been reported (e.g.
Honkanen and Olsen, 2009; Kaiser and Stead, 2002; Kole, 2003; Verbeke and Bruns,
2006; Verbeke et al., 2007a). Given the low awareness of and factual knowledge about
aquaculture and aquaculture practices, consumers perception of farmed fish is more
driven by emotions than by ratio or cognitive factors, such as product or process
knowledge (Koster, 2003; Verbeke and Bruns, 2006; Verbeke et al., 2007b). In many
cases this leads to an image transfer from intensive terrestrial livestock, with a
prejudice against aquaculture and farmed fish (Arvanitoyannis et al., 2004). Examples
of this image transfer relate to the association with growth hormones, overcrowded
ponds or tanks (deduction from high density conditions in battery hens) (Hamnvik,
2004), poor animal welfare conditions (Kole, 2003), negative externalities (e.g. Verbeke
and Bruns, 2006; Verbeke et al., 2007b), poor taste (e.g. Girard and Paquotte, 2003),
and lower overall appreciation (Kole et al., 2009). Nonetheless, farmed fish receives a
positive perception (though slightly less positive than wild fish), which is improving
over time along with increasing consumer awareness (Girard and Paquotte, 2003). The
limited consumer awareness of fish origin also involves a degree of uncertainty at
consumer level, which makes consumers open to negative news coverage (Kaiser and
Stead, 2002). Past research also showed a negative impact of crises in terrestrial
livestock production on aquaculture product consumption, with a drop in salmon
consumption following on the outbreak of BSE (Paquotte and Mariojouls, 2001).
In this study we are particularly interested in whether or not it is possible to profile
and distinguish (self-reported) farmed fish from (self-reported) wild fish consumers.

Consumer groups were profiled based on variables and characteristics that have
previously been incorporated in theoretical frameworks explaining food consumer
behaviour. These factors include personal and food characteristics (Randall and
Sanjur, 1981; Steenkamp, 1997), as well as attitudes and knowledge (e.g. Fishbein and
Ajzen, 1975; Pieniak et al., 2008b). These profiling variables will be discussed in a
descriptive manner in the first part of the study.

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?
537

Material and methods


Research approach and sampling
Quantitative descriptive data were collected through a cross-sectional consumer
survey in Belgium, Norway and Spain. The selection of the countries was informed
by their geographical location in Northern, Central Western and Southern Europe and
by the considerable differences in fish consumption habits and traditions and fish
production figures between these countries (Welch et al., 2002). Belgium is
characterised by a relatively moderate fish consumption and a limited fisheries and
aquaculture production capacity. Spain in contrast has a strong fish consumption
tradition and belongs to the main producers of fish (both from catch and aquaculture)
within Europe (European Commission, 2008). Finally, Norway is situated in between
both countries in terms of fish consumption and has the highest production figures,
most of which is intended for export. Participants were the main person responsible
for food purchasing in the household and a balanced age distribution within the range
of 20-60 years was strived for. Total sample size was 1,319 respondents, i.e. more
than 400 respondents in each of the three European countries. Participants were
randomly selected from the representative IPSOS European consumer access panel.
All contact and questionnaire administration procedures were electronic. Data
collection was performed simultaneously in each country between mid November and
mid December 2007.
Detailed socio-demographic characteristics of the national and pooled samples are
provided in Table I. Gender distribution reflects the selection of the main person
responsible for food purchasing with a majority of females. Age was equally spread
within the 20-60 years age range. The sample varies in terms of household size, income
level, education level, presence of children and regional distribution in line with
population census distributions in each of the countries involved (see Table I).
Questionnaire content, measurement and scaling
The master questionnaire was developed in English and translated into the national
languages using the procedure of back-translation to ensure linguistic equivalence
(Brislin, 1970; Maneesriwongul and Dixon, 2004). Following back-translation, the
questionnaire was extensively pre-tested by the researchers in order to identify and
eliminate potential problems. Fieldwork started after editing, correcting, electronic
programming and additional pre-testing of the electronic version of the
questionnaire.
Participants were asked to complete the structured electronic questionnaire on their
own, i.e. all data were self-administered by the participants without interference from
an interviewer. First, consumers self-reported total fish consumption frequency was
registered, as well as their consumption of farmed and wild fish separately.
Consumption frequency was registered on a 13-point scale that ranged from never (1)

BFJ
113,4

Belgium
n

538

Table I.
Socio-demographic
characteristics of the
different countries

440

Norway
442

Spain

Total

437

1,319

Gender (%)
Females

64.8

63.8

65.4

64.7

Age distribution (%) (yrs)


20-29
30-39
40-49
50-60

24.8
25.2
24.3
25.7

24.2
25.1
25.3
25.3

24.7
24.5
25.2
25.6

24.6
24.9
24.9
25.5

Income level (%) (e)a


0-1000
1000-2000
. 2000

15.0
34.1
50.9

46.8
33.6
20.6

9.8
22.5
67.7

24.0
29.7
46.3

Education level (%)


Secondary or lower
Higher

47.9
52.1

30.8
69.2

44.2
55.8

40.9
59.1

Presence of children in the household (%)


Yes
No

60.4
39.6

54.9
45.1

55.4
44.6

56.9
43.1

Household size (%)


1 person
2 persons
3 persons
$ 4 persons

18.0
31.6
23.0
27.5

23.8
36.7
18.8
20.8

9.6
32.0
27.5
30.9

17.1
33.4
23.1
26.4

Regional distribution (%)


Rural area or village
Small or middle sized town
Large town

45.9
31.1
23.0

40.4
31.4
28.2

19.0
43.8
37.2

35.1
35.4
29.5

Note: aIncome was measured using nine categories and will further be dealt with as a continuous
variable. n 1,319

to seven times per week (13). For analytical purposes, the scale was rescaled to an
average weekly consumption frequency ranging from zero to seven. These
consumption records functioned as the basis on which respondents were grouped
according to the proportion of farmed fish in their total fish intake. When respondents
consumed wild fish on at least two out of three fish consumption occasions, they were
considered predominantly wild fish consumers. Similarly, consumers were classified
as predominantly farmed fish consumers when at least two thirds of their fish choices
were farmed fish. The remaining group was termed the mixed farmed/wild group, thus
yielding a three-group solution.
Three categories of potential profiling variables were measured. First, personal
characteristics include socio-demographic variables as well as fish consumption
frequencies. Given the positive relationship between fish consumption and
involvement with fish and subjective knowledge about fish, both constructs are also
assessed. Involvement with fish and subjective knowledge about fish were measured

using multiple items based on Zaichowsky (1985) and Flynn and Goldsmith (1999),
respectively. Second food characteristics were included in terms of consumers
perception of farmed fish. Perception was measured through a list of 24 bipolar items
that relate to different themes (three items for each health, safety, quality, convenience,
sustainability, animal welfare, price and sensory), using a seven-point semantic
differential with the negative item on the left side of the scale and its antonym (positive
item) on the right side of the scale. Third, measurements related to consumer attitudes
and objective knowledge were included. Interest in fish origin was measured on a
seven-point Likert scale, ranging from no interest at all (1) to very strong interest
(7). Consumers interest in information about fish origin relative to other information
cues has been calculated (for example, relative to quality mark, recipes and health
benefits). Data about consumer knowledge related to fish in general and aquaculture
and farmed fish in particular were gathered through true/false statements. Statements
were: More than half of the fish we can buy is farmed fish (false); The use of
antibiotics in fish farming has significantly decreased in recent years (true); Farming
of fish is a new activity (false); Salmon is almost exclusively farmed (true); Farmed
fish contain more mercury than wild fish (false); Only slightly more than 1 kg of feed
fish (for making fishmeal) is needed to produce 1 kg of farmed Atlantic salmon (true);
Cod is a fatty fish (false); Fish is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids (true); Salmon is a
fatty fish (true). In addition to evaluating the statement as either true or false, the
respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which they were certain about their
answer on a seven-point Likert scale that ranged from very uncertain (1) to very
certain (7). Measuring uncertainty could provide additional insights in consumers
awareness of fish origin. Likewise eventual inconsistencies in answering behaviour
and the proportion of neutral answers could be indicative of the level of consumer
awareness.
In addition, in each country the respondents were provided with a list of popular
fish species. For Belgium, these were salmon, cod, tuna, trout, seabass/seabream,
Alaska pollock and mussels. For Norway, the species included were salmon, cod,
shrimps, mackerel, saithe, herring and redfish. Finally, for Spain, the choice was
salmon, cod, bass, trout, seabass/seabream, hake and mussels. First respondents were
asked whether or not they have ever eaten the respective fish species. Second, they
were asked to rank the species, starting with the most frequently eaten (rank 1) and
ending with the least frequently eaten. Each of the species was categorised as either a
(mainly) wild or farmed fish species by the researchers.
Statistical analyses
Questionnaires were quality-checked and edited by the field research agency in order
to ensure accuracy and precision of the responses prior to coding and transcription of
the data. Statistical analyses were performed using the statistical software SPSS
version 15.0. Means and standard deviations are presented in table format or bar
charts. Frequencies are reported through histograms. Bivariate analyses including
cross-tabulation with x 2-statistics and one-way ANOVA comparison of means with
Bonferroni post-hoc tests were used to profile the farmed/wild/mixed consumer
segments in terms of personal and food characteristics, and consumer attitudes and
knowledge. Differences were considered statistically significant if p , 0:05.

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?
539

BFJ
113,4

540

Results and discussion


Personal characteristics
The socio-demographic composition of the sample is presented in Table I. Table II
reports the descriptive statistics related to fish consumption frequencies,
involvement with fish and subjective knowledge for each of the country
samples. In line with expectations, fish consumption frequencies were highest in
Spain, followed by Norway and Belgium (Pieniak et al., 2008a). With regard to
involvement with fish, Belgian consumers scored lower than Spanish or
Norwegians. Subjective knowledge only differed between Belgian (lowest) and
Spanish (highest) consumers.
Food characteristics
The responses on the perception of farmed fish were characterised by a high
proportion of neutral answers (scales mid-point). The large majority of the perception
items received a positive score on average. The high proportion of neutral responses
reflected the rather limited awareness among consumers of fish having either farmed
or wild origin, and corroborated earlier findings of Kole (2003). The most positive
general perception score was found for sustainability (see Figure 1). This indicates that
respondents positively associated farmed fish (and aquaculture) with a sustainable
alternative to fish captured in the wild. Convenience issues such as product availability
and ease of preparation were also scored relatively high, which again may have been
linked to the control aquaculture has of production parameters. Further, health, safety
and sensory issues appeared in the top part of the list. At the bottom of the list, issues
dealing with animal welfare were found. This could be indicative of respondents
transposing the negative image they have of livestock production animals in terms of
animal welfare conditions (Barnes et al., 2009) on to farmed fish. Price, which often
acts as a barrier for fish consumption, appeared towards the end of the list, though still
with a positive perception score.
Between country-differences were rather minor. Norwegians evaluated convenience
related issues the highest, while in both Belgium and Spain sustainability was given
the highest perception score. The consumers perception of animal welfare issues,
ranked lowest in each of the countries, although this received more positive scores in
Spain, when compared to Belgium, and Norway. Nonetheless perception did not differ
strongly between countries.

Table II.
Mean values per country
for fish consumption
frequency, involvement
with fish and subjective
knowledge

Self-reported fish consumption frequency


Total (frequency per week)
Farmed (frequency per week)
Wild (frequency per week)
Involvement with fishd
Subjective knowledged

Belgium
Mean
SD

Norway
Mean
SD

Spain
Mean
SD

0.89a
0.23a
0.39a
4.42a
3.19a

1.24b
0.42a
0.47b
4.74b
3.44a,b

2.10c
0.79b
0.94c
4.96b
3.54b

0.76
0.49
0.60
1.65
0.76

1.09)
0.68
0.68
1.70
1.09

1.45
1.13
1.13
1.52
1.45

Notes: a,b,c Scores in one row with a different superscript are significantly different at p , 0.05 (oneway ANOVA and Bonferroni multiple comparison test). d Measured on seven-point Likert scales

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?
541

Figure 1.
Consumer perception of
farmed fish for the
total sample

Consumer attitudes and objective knowledge


For the total sample the interest in fish origin only ranked ninth in a list of 14 information
cues, still with an overall positive mean value (mean 4.88 on a seven-point scale;
SD 1.73). The most preferred information cues were related to quality, health and safety
issues and to information about how to prepare fish. This corroborates the previously
reported high level of interest in quality issues (Verbeke et al., 2007a) and the observation
that society is strongly health and safety oriented with respect to food consumption
decisions (Pieniak et al., 2008b). Perceived difficulties in preparing fish are one of the
barriers for fish consumption (Altintzoglou et al., 2009, in press). Although the interest in
fish origin is rather moderate, substantial variation was seen in the sample (see Figure 2),
with a high proportion of respondents positioning themselves on the neutral scale point.
In Spain, in line with higher fish consumption and fish involvement, interest in
information cues was higher when compared to both other countries. However, the
interest in fish origin only appeared at ninth place in Spain (mean 5.21; SD 1.54),
while it ranked sixth in Norway (mean 4.93; SD 1.82) and seventh in Belgium
(mean 4.50; SD 1.77).
Regarding objective knowledge, low percentages of correct answers were found on
some of the knowledge statements despite the 50 per cent chance of choosing the
correct answer (see Table III). About two thirds of the respondents considered fish as
having mainly farmed origin (anno 2007 aquaculture products represented about 30
per cent of the total fish supply in Europe (FAOSTAT, 2008)). Poor awareness was
recorded about the amount of feed needed for fish production, which corresponds with

BFJ
113,4

542
Figure 2.
Interest in fish origin,
measured on a seven-point
Likert scale, ranging from
no interest at all (1) to
very interested (7)

Belgium Norway Spain

Table III.
Percentage of correct
answers to the knowledge
statements per country,
including Chi-square
p-value

More than half of the fish we can buy is farmed fish (false)
The use of antibiotics in fish farming has significantly decreased
in recent years (true)
Farming of fish is a new activity (false)
Salmon is almost exclusively farmed (true)
Farmed fish contain more mercury than wild fish (false)
Only slightly more than 1 kg of feed fish is needed to produce
1 kg of farmed Atlantic salmon (true)
Cod is a fatty fish (false)
Fish is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids (true)
Salmon is a fatty fish (true)

32.7

31.9

31.4

0.908

57.5
77.7
63.2
80.9

65.4
88.5
44.8
65.4

61.1
75.5
52.2
68.9

0.055
, 0.001
, 0.001
, 0.001

36.6
73.2
92.0
75.5

29.4
81.0
99.3
83.0

41.0
78.0
95.7
76.4

, 0.001
0.020
, 0.001
0.012

earlier reports of low consumer awareness and poor practical knowledge about
practices in livestock production (Vanhonacker et al., 2008). Many respondents did not
seem to know that salmon is almost exclusively of farmed origin. Furthermore, it was
noticed that the awareness of fish as a source of Omega-3 has developed in recent years
and is now commonly known (Verbeke et al., 2007b).
Consumers low awareness about fish origin was also evident from the fact that,
apart from the large percentage of neutral answers on origin related questions, some
inconsistency was found in the reported fish consumption frequency. Given that fish
has either wild or farmed origin, the sum of the consumption frequency of wild and
farmed fish should equal total fish consumption frequency, at least where consumers
are fully aware of fish origin. The data indicated that this assumption held for only one
third of our sample. Further indication of the relatively low general awareness,
regarding fish origin was found when the percentage of respondents that indicated
they did not consume fish at all (n 38; 2.9 per cent of the total sample) was
considered relative to the percentage that claimed to eat neither wild nor farmed fish
(n 205; 15.5 per cent of the total sample).
Finally the certainty levels that respondents could indicate corresponding with each
of the objective knowledge statements also reflected how aware consumers were of fish

in general and farmed versus wild fish in particular. Only in the case of fish being a
source of Omega-3 was a positive overall certainty score obtained (see Table IV).
Uncertainty (mean score below 4) was expressed for the statements farmed fish contain
more mercury than wild fish, the use of antibiotics in fish farming has significantly
decreased in recent years, and only slightly more than 1 kg of feed fish is needed to
produce 1 kg of farmed Atlantic salmon. Uncertainty about the presence of high
concentrations of mercury and antibiotics in farmed fish probably results from
aquacultures image with respect to antibiotic use in the early nineties, and/or originates
from an image transfer from intensive terrestrial livestock production (Verbeke et al.,
2007b). The uncertainty regarding the amount of fish feed could conflict with the
sustainable image that is attributed to aquaculture and farmed fish. Regarding country
differences, Belgians were the least certain and Norwegians the most certain, a finding
that did not always correspond with the percentage of correct answers within countries.

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?
543

Consumer profile
Grouping consumers in three categories based on the self-reported share of farmed fish
in the total fish consumption resulted in a group claiming to eat predominantly farmed
fish (40.6 per cent of the sample), a group that claimed to eat predominantly wild fish
(26.1 percent), and a group that claimed to eat an equal share of wild and farmed fish
(33.3 percent). Note that the group that reported no fish consumption was not
incorporated in either one of these groups.
The predominantly wild fish consumers expressed the highest involvement and
subjective knowledge, two issues that are related to each other and to a higher total fish
consumption frequency (Pieniak et al., 2008b). Higher levels of fish consumption have
also been linked with preference for wild fish (e.g. Verbeke et al., 2007c). This group
perceived farmed fish slightly more negatively in terms of safety as compared to the
group that consumed both farmed and wild fish. They were less convinced about the
better price and convenience of farmed fish, two product characteristics within which
farmed fish is believed to have some advantages over wild fish. In Belgium and Spain,
claimed consumption of predominantly wild fish was not well reflected into preferred
fish species, which may be associated to the participants low awareness of fish origin.
In contrast, in Norway, participants who claimed predominantly wild fish

Fish is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids


Salmon is a fatty fish
Farming of fish is a new activity
Salmon is almost exclusively farmed
Cod is a fatty fish
More than half of the fish we can buy is farmed fish
Farmed fish contain more mercury than wild fish
The use of antibiotics in fish farming has significantly
decreased in recent years
Only slightly more than 1 kg of feed fish is needed to produce
1 kg of farmed Atlantic salmon

Total

Belgium

Norway

Spain

5.67
5.21
4.52
4.52
4.48
4.48
3.69

4.66
4.61
3.93
4.18
4.20
4.26
3.44

6.62
5.72
4.80
4.87
5.46
4.39
3.72

5.48
5.03
4.59
4.37
4.16
4.62
3.52

3.58

3.18

4.07

3.24

2.75

2.62

2.80

2.71

Note: Statements are ranked based on mean value of the total sample

Table IV.
Certainty scores
corresponding with the
knowledge statements
(means on seven-point
scales)

BFJ
113,4

544

consumption appeared to prefer cod (see Table V). Finally, the wild fish consumers
appeared to be most interested in the issue of fish origin (see Table V).
The predominantly farmed fish consumers were characterised by slightly more
females and a slightly lower age when compared to the other groups (see Table V).
This was the group with the lowest fish consumption and this group included a high
share of Belgians. This group could not be differentiated from the other groups based
on their perception of farmed fish. Thus their reported choice for farmed fish did not
seem to be based on (perceived) food characteristics. An interesting observation was
that the majority of this group (80 per cent) believed that the fish one can buy is mainly
farmed. Probably, this contributed to the fact that these consumers defined themselves
as consumers of predominantly farmed fish. Reasons that support this suggestion are
the rather low involvement and subjective knowledge, the moderate awareness, the
lowest relative interest in fish origin and the fact that the claimed predominance of
farmed fish is not reflected in the fish species choices. A notable exception is Norway,
where predominantly farmed fish consumers reported a strong preference for salmon,
which is a predominantly farmed species.
The mixed group comprised slightly more males. They reported the highest fish
consumption, similar to the predominantly wild group, and denoted the highest
absolute score on each of the food characteristics. Hence, it can be hypothesised that
they are positive to fish as a food product without differentiating between wild and
farmed fish. Also their choice of fish species was equally distributed over farmed and
wild fish species.
Conclusions
This study investigated consumers attitudes and perceptions towards farmed fish in
three European countries and it explored the relevance of fish origin in consumers
choice of fish. The selection of countries for the study was based on the aim to collect
information that covers a substantial part of the diversity within the European food
market, within the budget and time constraints of the study. The country-selection was
in direct relation with the countrys fish consumption and fish production.
This study went deeper into the analysis of interest in, and knowledge and
awareness about fish origin. The study aimed to provide information regarding the
relevance of communicating the origin of fish. The results showed a rather limited
consumer awareness and knowledge regarding issues related to fish origin. In addition,
the limited awareness and knowledge indications were associated with an only modest
interest in fish origin in general. Despite a minor part of the sample indicating strong
interest in fish origin, the large majority prioritised other information cues and did not
seem to choose fish based on its origin. Similar results were found for country-of-origin
indications on other livestock products (Liefeld, 2005; Verbeke and Ward, 2006;
Verbeke and Roosen, 2009). Additionally, the food buying decision process is in most
cases a routine process, characterised by habit (Honkanen et al., 2005) and limited
information search (Verbeke, 2005). Grouping consumers based on the reported share
of farmed fish in their fish basket revealed the low (current) potential of fish origin as a
determinant of consumers fish choice. The choice for predominantly wild fish seemed
to be informed by a lower safety perception of farmed fish. This group of consumers
was most interested in the origin from a negative motivation, namely in order to avoid
farmed fish. The claim of predominantly farmed fish consumption seemed to be based

Predominantly wild
(26.1%)
Personal characteristics
Country (%)
Belgium
Norway
Spain
Gender (%)
Male
Age (years)
Mean
SD
Income category
Mean
SD
Fish consumption (%)
$ once per week
$ twice per week
Involvement with fish
Mean
SD
Subjective knowledge
Mean
SD
Food characteristics
Safety
Mean
SD
Health
Mean
SD
Sustainability
Mean
SD
Animal welfare
Mean
SD
Price
Mean
SD
Quality
Mean
SD
Convenience
Mean
SD
Sensory
Mean
SD

Mixed farmed-wild
(33.3%)

Predominantly farmed
(40.6%)

23.7
29.5
24.5

24.9
35.9
37.5

51.1
34.6
38.0

24.6

37.7

37.7

41.4
11.4

40.0
10.8

39.4
11.0

9.3
3.6

9.7
3.3

9.5
3.4

71.1
41.7

64.7
34.7

68
43

545

5.04b
1.6

4.89a,b
1.5

4.73a
1.6

3.88b
1.5

3.54a
1.4

3.56a
1.4

4.62a
1.50

4.93b
1.45

4.79a,b
1.49

4.78
1.49

4.96
1.49

4.93
1.51

4.73
1.34

4.87
1.29

4.75
1.27

4.19
1.39

4.37
1.36

4.19
1.37

4.44a
1.33

4.70b
1.28

4.56a,b
1.27

4.56
1.32

4.75
1.29

4.63
1.28

5.01
1.56
4.64
1.46

5.28
1.35
4.88
1.39

5.12
1.52

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?

a,b

4.78
1.47
(continued)

Table V.
Profile of consumers who
claim to consume either
predominantly wild fish,
or predominantly farmed
fish, or who have a fish
diet of both farmed and
wild fish

BFJ
113,4

546

Table V.

Attitudes and knowledge


Interest in fish origin
Mean
SD
Awareness
Mean
SD
Objective knowledge
Number of correct answers
Certainty average
Mean
SD
Fish species_Belgium
Salmon
Cod
Tuna
Trout
Seabass
Pollock
Mussels
Fish species_Norway
Salmon
Cod
Shrimps
Mackerel
Saithe
Herring
Redfish
Fish species_Spain
Salmon
Cod
Bass
Trout
Seabass
Hake
Mussels

Predominantly wild
(26.1%)

Mixed farmed-wild
(33.3%)

Predominantly farmed
(40.6%)

5.23
1.7

5.05
1.63

4.96
1.62

0.87
0.75

1.01
0.74

0.82
0.54

5.97

5.91

5.90

4.49
1.1

4.45
1.0

4.36
1.0

2.94
2.84
3.35
5.20
4.84
4.65
4.18

2.34
2.92
3.37
5.02
5.21
4.41
4.73

2.79
2.74
3.32
5.41
5.42
4.28
4.04

3.00
2.03
3.78
4.77
3.22
5.60
5.59

2.16
2.51
3.40
4.41
3.61
5.77
6.14

1.74
2.78
3.27
4.23
4.07
5.71
6.14

3.87
3.94
4.63
5.33
3.85
2.18
4.20

3.78
3.94
4.76
5.34
4.07
2.28
3.84

3.87
4.20
4.63
5.24
3.78
2.21
4.07

Notes: a,bScores in one row with a different superscript are significantly different at p , 0:05 (oneway ANOVA and post hoc Bonferroni multiple comparison test)

on a belief that most of the fish supply originates from aquaculture. It was not related
to perceived characteristics of the resulting fish products. Finally, consumption of both
farmed and wild fish followed from a positive perception about fish as a food category,
irrespective of the fish origin.
In summary, it is questionable whether or not it is necessary to emphasise the fish
origin in product information in the current market situation of limited awareness and
knowledge. This study has shown that consumers image formation of farmed fish,
against a background of low awareness and knowledge, suffers from some negative

image transfers from past processes and from intensive terrestrial livestock production.
As a consequence, it is advisable to avoid exposing consumers to an overload of
information related to aquaculture before awareness and knowledge levels are improved.
Considering the increasing demand for traceability and transparency, well formulated
information and communication strategies should be worked out regarding aquaculture
production methods, its benefits and its resulting end products. Keeping in mind low
consumer interest and the increasing sustainability of aquaculture, using studies such as
this can contribute to the planning of consumer communication strategies. This way,
consumer interest in fish origin, can be triggered, by the right media, and sound
information, about the origin, of each product, can be provided.
References
Altintzoglou, T., Birch-Hansen, K., Valsdottir, T., Odland, J.O., Martinsdottir, E., Bruns, K. and
Luten, J. (2009), Translating barriers into potential improvements: the case of healthy
seafood product development, Journal of Consumer Marketing.
Arvanitoyannis, I.S., Krystallis, A., Panagiotaki, P. and Theodorou, A.J. (2004), A marketing
survey on Greek consumers attitudes towards fish, Aquaculture International, Vol. 12,
pp. 259-79.
Barnes, A.P., Vergunst, P. and Topp, K. (2009), Assessing the consumer perception of the term
organic: a citizens jury approach, British Food Journal, Vol. 111, pp. 155-64.
Brislin, R.W. (1970), Back-translation for cross-cultural research, Journal of Cross-cultural
Psychology, Vol. 1, pp. 185-216.
Bruns, K. (2003), Consumer research on fish in Europe, in Luten, J., Oehlenschlager, J. and
Olafsdottir, G. (Eds), Quality of Fish from Catch to Consumer: Labelling, Monitoring and
Traceability, Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen, pp. 335-44.
Cahu, C., Salen, P. and De Lorgeril, M. (2004), Farmed and wild fish in the prevention of
cardiovascular diseases: assessing possible differences in lipid nutritional values,
Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, Vol. 14, pp. 34-41.
European Commission (2008), Het GVB gevat in getallen: Basisgegevens over het
Gemeenschappelijk Visserijbeleid, Bureau voor officiele publicaties der Europese
Gemeenschappen, Luxemburg.
Evans, G. and Cox, D.N. (2006), Australian consumers antecedents of attitudes towards food
produced by novel technologies, British Food Journal, Vol. 108, pp. 916-30.
FAO (2006), FOA Fisheries Technical Paper 500: State of World Aquaculture 2006, FAO, Rome.
FAO (2007), FISHSTAT Plus: Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, available at: http://faostat.
fao.org/fishery/statistics (accessed 18 June 2009).
FAOSTAT (2008), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, available at www.
fao.org/site (accessed 18 June 2009).
Failler, P. (2007), Future prospects for fish and fishery products: fish consumption in the
European Union in 2015 and 2030, FAO Fisheries Circular, Vol. 972 No. 1.
Farmer, L.J., McConnell, J.M. and Kilpatrick, D.J. (2000), Sensory characteristics of farmed and
wild Atlantic salmon, Aquaculture, Vol. 187, pp. 105-25.
Fishbein, M. and Ajzen, I. (1975), Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behaviour: An Introduction to
Theory and Research, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
Flynn, L.R. and Goldsmith, R.E. (1999), A short, reliable measure of subjective knowledge,
Journal of Business Research, Vol. 46 No. 1, pp. 57-66.

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?
547

BFJ
113,4

548

Frewer, L. (1999), Risk perception, social trust, and public participation in strategic decision
making: implications for emerging technologies, Ambio, Vol. 28, pp. 569-74.
Girard, S. and Paquotte, P. (2003), The French market for fresh fish: an opportunity for farmed
cod?, paper presented at the XV EAFE Conference, Brest, 15-16 May, available at: www.
ifremer.fr/eafe/program.htm (accessed 18 June 2009).
Hamnvik, S. (2004), Quality, market and economy of farmed cod, paper presented at the ICES
Gadoid Conference, 14 June, Bergen, available at: www.seafood.no/binary?id15500
(accessed 18 June 2009).
Honkanen, P. and Olsen, S.O. (2009), Environmental and animal welfare issues in food choice:
the case of farmed fish, British Food Journal, Vol. 111, pp. 293-309.
Honkanen, P., Olsen, S.O. and Verplanken, B. (2005), Intention to consume seafood importance
of habit, Appetite, Vol. 45, pp. 161-8.
Kaiser, M. and Stead, S.M. (2002), Uncertainties and values in European aquaculture:
communication, management and policy issues in times of changing public perceptions,
Aquaculture International, Vol. 10, pp. 469-90.
Kautsky, N., Beveridge, M., Folke, C., Primavera, J., Ronnback, P. and Troell, M. (2000),
Aquaculture and biodiversity, in Levin, S. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, Academic
Press, London.
Kole, A. (2003), Consumer opinions towards farmed fish, accounting for relevance and
individual knowledge, in Luten, J., Oehlenschlager, J. and Olafsdottir, G. (Eds), Quality of
Fish from Catch to Consumer: Labelling, Monitoring and Traceability, Wageningen
Academic Publishers, Wageningen, pp. 393-400.
Kole, A., Schelvis-Smit, R. and Mennink, M. (2007), Survey on turbot marketing examines
aquaculture product development: segmentation industry sector affect opinions in Spain,
The Netherlands, Global Aquaculture Advocate, Vol. 10, pp. 22-5.
Kole, A.P.W., Altintzoglou, T., Schelvis-Smit, R. and Luten, J. (2009), The effects of different
types of product information on the consumer product evaluation for fresh cod in real life
settings, Food Quality and Preference, Vol. 20, pp. 187-94.
Koster, E.P. (2003), The psychology of food choice: some often encountered fallacies, Food
Quality and Preference, Vol. 14, pp. 359-73.
Liefeld, J. (2005), Consumer knowledge and use of country-of-origin information at the point of
purchase, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 85-96.
Luten, J., Kole, A., Schelvis, R., Veldman, M., Heide, M., Carlehog, M. and Akse, L. (2002),
Evaluation of wild cod versus wild caught, farmed raised cod from Norway by Dutch
consumers, Okonomisk Fiskeriforskning, Vol. 12, pp. 44-60.
Maneesriwongul, W. and Dixon, J.K. (2004), Instrument translation process: a methods review,
Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol. 48, pp. 175-86.
Paquotte, P. and Mariojouls, C. (2001), Which new products for aquaculture? An analysis based
on the study of the French market, EIFAC Occasional Paper, Vol. 35, pp. 103-8.
Pieniak, Z., Verbeke, W., Perez-Cueto, F., Bruns, K. and De Henauw, S. (2008a), Fish
consumption and its motives in households with versus without self-reported medical
history of CVD: a consumer survey from five European countries, BMC Public Health.
Pieniak, Z., Verbeke, W., Scholderer, J., Bruns, K. and Olsen, S.O. (2008b), Impact of consumers
health beliefs, health involvement and risk perception on fish consumption: a study in five
European countries, British Food Journal, Vol. 110, pp. 898-915.
Ponte, S. (2008), Greener than thou: the political economy of fish ecolabelling and its local
manivestations in South Africa, World Development, Vol. 36, pp. 159-75.

Randall, E. and Sanjur, D. (1981), Food preferences their conceptualization and relationship to
consumption, Ecology of Food and Nutrition, Vol. 11, pp. 151-61.
Steenkamp, J.B. (1997), Dynamics in consumer behavior with respect to agricultural and food
products, in Wierenga, B., van Tilburg, A., Grunert, K., Steenkamp, J.B. and Wedel, M.
(Eds), Agricultural Marketing and Consumer Behavior in a Changing World, Kluwer
Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 143-88.
Subasinghe, R., Soto, D. and Jia, J. (2009), Global aquaculture and its role in sustainable
development, Reviews in Aquaculture, Vol. 1, pp. 2-9.
Vanhonacker, F., Verbeke, W., Van Poucke, E. and Tuyttens, F.A.M. (2008), Do citizens and
farmers interpret the concept of farm animal welfare differently?, Livestock Science,
Vol. 116, pp. 126-36.
Verbeke, W. (2005), Agriculture and the food industry in the information age, European Review
of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 32, pp. 347-68.
Verbeke, W. and Bruns, K. (2006), Consumer awareness, perception and behaviour towards
farmed versus wild fish, The Economics of Aquaculture with Respect to Fisheries,
Proceedings of the 95th EAAE Seminar in Civitavecchia, Rome, pp. 237-51.
Verbeke, W. and Roosen, J. (2009), Market differentiation potential of country-of-origin, quality
and traceability labeling, The Estey Centre Journal of International Law and Trade Policy,
Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 20-35.
Verbeke, W. and Ward, R.W. (2001), A fresh meat almost ideal demand system incorporating
negative TV press and advertising impact, Agricultural Economics, Vol. 25, pp. 359-74.
Verbeke, W. and Ward, R.W. (2006), Consumer interest in information cues denoting quality,
traceability and origin: an application of ordered probit models to beef labels, Food
Quality and Preference, Vol. 17, pp. 453-67.
Verbeke, W., Vermeir, I. and Bruns, K. (2007a), Consumer evaluation of fish quality as basis for
fish market segmentation, Food Quality and Preference, Vol. 18, pp. 651-61.
Verbeke, W., Sioen, I., Bruns, K., De Henauw, S. and Van Camp, J. (2007b), Consumer
perception versus scientific evidence of farmed and wild fish: exploratory insights from
Belgium, Aquaculture International, Vol. 15, pp. 121-36.
Verbeke, W., Vanhonacker, F., Sioen, I., Van Camp, J. and De Henauw, S. (2007c), Perceived
importance of sustainability and ethics related to fish: a consumer behavior perspective,
Ambio, Vol. 36, pp. 580-5.
Welch, A.A., Lund, E., Amiano, P., Dorronsoro, M., Brustad, M., Kumle, M., Rodriguez, M.,
Lasheras, C., Janzon, L., Jansson, J., Luben, R., Spencer, E.A., Overvad, K., Tjonneland, A.,
Clavel-Chapelon, F., Linseisen, J., Klipstein-Grobusch, K., Benetou, V., Zavitsanos, X.,
Tumino, R. and Galasso, R. et al., (2002), Variability of fish consumption within the ten
European countries participating in the European Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition
(EPIC) study, Public Health Nutrition, Vol. 5, pp. 1273-85.
World Health Organization (2003), Food Based Dietary Guidelines in the WHO European Region,
Report EUR/03/5045414, available at: www.who.org (accessed 18 June 2009).
Zaichowsky, J.L. (1985), Measuring the involvement construct, Journal of Consumer Research,
Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 341-53.
Corresponding author
Filiep Vanhonacker can be contacted at: Filiep.Vanhonacker@ugent.be
To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.com
Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints

Does fish origin


matter to
consumers?
549