Specific measurement scales and methods have been developed and datacollection has been made in collaboration with project 2.1 CONSUMERSURVEY, providing a huge dataset of 4,786 consumers. During 2005 a number of analyses have been carried out leading to interesting results. First, both objective and subjective knowledge about fish were measured using multiple items, which were merged into single constructs for analysis purpose. Objective knowledge measures accurate knowledge about a product class as stored in peopleís long-term memory, whereas subjective knowledge pertains to consumerís self-assessment or belief about what or how much they know about a product class. The share of respondents answering correctly to the five statements measuring objective knowledge shows that only slightly over three-quarters of the European consumers know that fish is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, whereas only around 40% know that fish is not a source of dietary fibre. The fact that salmon is classified as a fatty fish is better known than the codís classification as a non-fatty fish. Consumerís knowledge is poorest, particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland with respect to the farmed or wild origin of the fish they can buy. Objective knowledge is significantly higher among women, correlates positively with age and is higher among consumers with higher education, particularly with respect to nutritional composition. Futhermore, subjective knowledge correlates much stronger than objective knowledge with interest in traceability, interest in quality marks, safety guarantee and information about health benefits from fish consumption. Especially those who think to know a lot about fish, but not necessarily have a good actual knowledge, are interested in receiving additional information and guidance for making fish purchasing decisions. Our findings illustrate that what people believe to know about fish, matters more than how much they actually know.
Second, with respect to the issue of traceability, the focus in the survey was on information, which is basically the main benefit that traceability can deliver to consumers. Expiry date, price, species name and weight are the most used information cues on seafood labels, packages or shelves. Consumers are most familiar with these cues and they feel able to derive clear quality expectations from the information these cues convey. Other cues like capture area, brand, nutritional information or date of capture are far less used. The likely reasons are consumerís lack of familiarity, and lack of trust in these cues that signal typical credence attributes. European consumers claim a high interest in additional seafood information. The strongest interest is displayed for a safety guarantee and a quality mark for seafood. Whereas consumers show little interest in a batch identification number Ė how could they ever interpret or use this direct indication of traceability? Ė their interest in information cues that logically can result from traceability (namely a safety or quality guarantee) is extremely strong.
The results from this study indicate that consumers (will) use those information cues they are most familiar with, because these cues allow them to make quality expectations that most likely will fit with experienced product performance. Furthermore, our findings with respect to fish confirm that traceability in the strict sense of a reference code or identification number, in the absence of easily interpretable quality verification, has little apparent value to consumers. The primary role of traceability is within the chain, with considerable potential though to guarantee safety and quality to the fish consumer as end user. Further detailed analyses, including market segmentation based on interest in traceability, will be performed in 2006. The empirical findings from the consumer survey, as well as the insights obtained in the role and impact of seafood information, will contribute to the experimental studies of the impact of health and/ versus safety information as well as ethical information performed in the later stage of the research.