Serviced seafood counters disappearing
Self-service refrigerated counters have replaced serviced seafood counters at many British supermarkets. Customers can no longer find fresh fish and must instead choose pre-packed products. This can create new challenges for the Norwegian fisheries industry.
The grocery industry often refers to pre-packed products as chilled products and not as fresh products. Many pre-packed products also originate fish that previously has been frozen.
In order to find out what choices are available for consumers wanting to buy fresh fish in Great Britain, Nofima has travelled to London and Manchester to investigate a selection of supermarkets that belong to chains that have a 72 percent market share.
Just a few of the supermarkets had serviced seafood counters. As a result, the scientists decided to concentrate on the selection of pre-packed products from cod loins, which is an important export product from the Norwegian whitefish fillet industry.
Only one of the eight products studied was marked as being genuinely fresh. Five were marked that the raw material may have been frozen and two were marked that it was previously frozen. One of the products lacked such labelling. The majority of the products were marked with catch method, with long-line as the dominant method.
“We are surprised that there is so little relationship between the previous handling of the raw material and the retail price in the supermarket. For example, one product that definitely had been thawed out cost more than a product that had not necessarily been frozen,” say the scientists Finn-Arne Egeness and Jens Østli from Nofima, adding: “It’s also worth noting that none of the chains, with the exception of Morrisons, marked genuinely fresh products on the packaging.”
A fresh study shows that British consumers have mixed perceptions of fresh and frozen fish. Fresh fish is perceived as being of better quality, fresher and more nutritious than frozen fish. On the other hand, frozen fish is perceived as being cheap, convenient and offering good value for money.
”Our find gives reason to ask whether there is little interest among English consumers for buying genuinely fresh products,” says Egeness. “Or is it a case that the customers have perhaps experienced that the quality of the thawed products is so good that buying fresh products is unimportant? Or is it perhaps that the customers don’t realise that the products are based on frozen raw materials?”
The scientists will carry out further studies in Great Britain, including what perceptions the consumers have of thawed and fresh products when it comes to taste, knowledge and attitudes.
”Great Britain is a well developed market for whitefish products. There is major competition between the supermarkets, and innovation and product development are high priorities,” says Egeness. “Several in the industry claim that decisive changes occur first in the British market and are later transferred to other markets. Consequently, it’s important to follow what is happening in England.”
This project is financed by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF).