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Consumer segments identified for more effective seafood communication

As a part of SEAFOODplus training activities and mobility programme, Zuzanna Pieniak from Ghent University, Belgium (2.3 SEA-INFOCOM) visited Dr. Karen Brunsø and Prof. Joachim Scholderer from the MAPP, University of Aarhus in Denmark (2.1 CONSUMERSURVEY) to identify market segments based on consumer’s use of and trust in information sources about fish in order to develop effective seafood communication. The study described was performed as a part Zuzanna Pieniak’s PhD. Measures of information sources and cues have been cross-culturally validated and three consumer segments have been identified.



Author: Zuzanna Pieniak and Wim Verbeke, Ghent University, Belgium



Zuzanna Pieniak, Joachim Scholderer and Karen Brunsø

Between November and December 2004, a cross-sectional survey was conducted among households in Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Poland and Spain. Other results from the study, involving 4,786 consumers, have been published at this website as Scientific Alert Notes 14-10-2005 and 20-10-2005. Due to the data collected being from different member countries of the EU, a concern regarding the cross-cultural validity of the collected information appeared. It was therefore necessary to examine the cross-cultural validity of the measures related to the information about fish following a procedure described by Steenkamp and Baumgartner (1998). Confirmatory factor analyses were performed using the LISREL 8.72 statistical analysis.


Results showed that common interval scales for use of and trust in information centers about fish items exist. A cross-comparison of the results from the different countries would thus be meaningful. On the other hand, use and interest in information cues, subjective and objective knowledge and need for cognition are invariant across countries; the responses vary in terms of the same scale units, but the items are additively biased across countries (see Scholderer, 2005). The bias needs to be eliminated by standardising all validation criteria within countries before further analyses are conducted.


In order to analyse consumer’s needs for seafood information and to develop an effective seafood communication, cluster analysis has been performed using the statistical software package SPSS 12. Three distinct clusters were identified. The clusters differ in level of knowledge, behaviour towards fish consumption, use of potential and existing information, and last but not least, their socio-demographic profile.


Sceptic (24.0%) -> Sceptics are passive towards trusting and using any information regarding fish. This segment includes older male consumers who displayed the lowest fish consumption level; therefore they could be a very relevant communication target, especially from a public health point of view. However, this is also the most difficult group to reach by communicators and marketers because of what may be called a genuine disinterest in any information about fish. Additional analysis showed that people from this group hardly use information sources.


Enthusiast (41.4%) -> This is the biggest consumer group who use and trust all information sources about fish. In general, they are very interested in information about fish and they use different information cues on the labels to obtain this information. Importantly, this segment consists of relatively more women than men. We could speculate that they are the most fish-information involved group of consumers who are still open to receiving and using more information related to fish.


Confident (34.6%) -> This group of fish consumers consist of relatively young people who do not really use any information sources but have high trust in authorities, such as government, scientists and consumer organisations. They simply “trust the system”. This consumer group, together with the Sceptics, reported a low fish consumption level. However, this is the easiest group to reach by communicators and marketers because of their high trust.


Figure 1. Consumer segment distribution (total pan-EU sample; n=4,786)

This study reveals the very interesting fact that none of the groups showed a low trust level, but at the same time, high use level of information sources related to fish. This indicates to us, that a minimum level of trust might be required before information sources are critically examined and used.


The findings from this analysis have been submitted to Food Quality and Preference (Pieniak, Z., Verbeke, W., Scholderer, J., Brunsø, K., Olsen, S.O. “European consumers’ use of and trust in information sources about fish”)




Scholderer, J., Grunert, K. G. & Brunsø, K. (2005). A procedure for eliminating additive bias from cross-cultural survey data. Journal of Business Research, 58, 72-78.


Steenkamp, J.B., E. M., & Baumgartner, H. (1998). Assessing measurement invariance in cross-national consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 25, 78-90.