So far both qualitative focus group interviews in Spain and Belgium as well as a major cross-cultural survey have been carried out in five European countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Denmark and Poland. The survey was conducted in collaboration with project 2.3 SEA-INFOCOM, and covered aspects of relevance to this project as well. One of the aims was to investigate European consumers’ quality perception of seafood and the link to consumers’ intention to consume fish products. This was analysed by means of regression analysis. Intention to consume was used as dependend variable, while eight factors expected to influence on the intention was chosen as independent variables: Price, Negative affect (smell, bones), Taste, Perceived ability, Perceived risk, Convenience orientation, Health, Naturalness. The analysis was based on data from the consumer survey and revealed some very interesting conclusions across the five countries involved
Although not all relationships were significant, all significant relationships had the expected directions (i.e. positive or negative). The overall picture is that Taste has a significant positive influence on Intention to consume fish in all countries, while the fact that fish is a Natural product is insignificant across the five countries. Across Europe, Taste has the highest impact on the Intention to consume fish. Apart from these similarities there are no general patterns as to what influences the consumption of fish in the five countries, and as expected both similarities and differences could be found.
Perceived ability to ‘handle’ fish had a positive influence on Intention to consume fish in all countries except in Spain, and one possible reason for this may be that Perceived ability is not as such a barrier in Spain compared to the other countries. The aspect of Perceived risk had, on the other hand, a negative influence on Intention to consume fish in The Netherlands and Poland showing that the general populations here are more sensitive to this issues compared with the other countries. Furthermore, even if the same factors have an influence on Intention to consume fish across countries, this does not necessarily imply that the same solution on product level can be applied, i.e. the Taste must be ‘right’ but not similar across countries and the aspect of Risk can be perceived in different ways. Finally, as mentioned, the only construct not having any impact in any of the countries was Naturalness, which may imply that the fact that seafood is a natural product is a well-known fact that does not have a direct influence on Intention to consume fish.
During 2007 the project group also submitted the book chapter ‘Consumer attitudes and seafood consumption in Europe’ for the SEAFOODplus book. In this book chapter focus was mainly on consumer motives and barriers for seafood consumption as well as convenience orientation with respect to seafood. Here, new results based on the convenience concept showed that consumers in general perceive fish as inconvenient, and a cross-cultural segmentation analysis taking point of departure in consumers’ convenience orientation resulted in four pan-European segments that have very different demands and needs in relation to convenience: ‘The Convenience segment (29%)’, ‘The Independence segment (22%)’, ‘The Critical segment (23%)’ and ‘The Traditional segment (26%)’ – some segments are really into convenience solutions while other segments are not. This result indicates a clear need to develop products with different degrees of convenience, to educate consumers about where to buy and how to prepare fish in convenient ways, and to change some consumers’ beliefs and attitudes about fish being an inconvenient product. Also, the analysis shows that all countries have some consumers that perceive fish as convenient, probably because of their knowledge of and experience with the product (Gofton, 1995), and thus a future challenge for the fishing industry is to know precisely which consumer segments to approach and also how to meet and fulfil the needs and wants of the selected segment(s) by new targeted product developments.