How to prompt the industry to study consumers’ interests: global experience and the first steps in Russia

On 15 September, as part of the 2nd Global Fishery Forum, an international conference was held under the title “Global consumer markets”. The participants in the event included Russia’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and head of the Federal Fishery Agency Ilya Shestakov, President of the EU Fish Processors and Traders Association and the European Federation of National Organizations of Importers and Exporters of Fish (AIPCE-СEP) Guus Pastoor, President of the All-Russia Association of Fishery Enterprises, Entrepreneurs and Exporters German Zverev, and representatives of major Russian and foreign trading, consulting and other commercial organization and non-commercial structures.

The main issues covered by the conference were the state of today’s global consumer market, forecasts of how it will change in consideration of the expected population growth, technologies for promoting seafood and mutual influence of consumer demand and the policy of fish product producers.

President of the EU Fish Processors and Traders Association Guus Pastoor talked about the condition of the European fish market and its forecast development. According to him, growth of the European market currently depends on the situation in the consumption macro-regions. In particular, in the countries of North America, a drop in consumption is being observed of European fish products, while the Asian markets, on the contrary, are growing, so this region is becoming more interesting. In the future, however, a gap between demand and consumption is not out of the questions and up to 40% of supplies might in general move to the domestic market.

The Association restricts collaboration with countries where illegal, unregulated and unregistered fishing flourishes. “We want world politicians to understand the danger of the situation and combat the illegal industry, and we are prepared to work with such countries and their markets”, Guus Pastoor noted.

He also drew attention to the fact that economic, political and social tools cold be used to manage supplies and that there are also certain agreements within the fishing industry on supplies to the domestic market. A stable trend has now formed on this market towards work with responsible users, development of waste-free technologies for using aquatic bioresources and formation of a product that is appealing to consumers.

It was Asbjørn Warvik Rørtveit, Market Research Director, Norwegian Seafood Council, who spoke about what a brand appealing to consumers means in the fish sphere. As a strong player on the fish market, Norway applies considerable efforts to promote the recognition of the Norwegian fish brand in order to increase the value of this product. The activities of the Council are coordinated by the government and the fish industry finances market research and consumer preference studies.

“A huge database has now been created of research throughout the world”, Asbjørn Warvik Rørtveit stressed. “The Kingdom of Norway exports fish to 140 countries and virtually everywhere a unified approach is observed to the appearance and positioning of the brand.”

According to research data, 7 out of 10 consumers want to know where fish products come from. Surveys also showed that young people perceive seafood as a boring, traditional food, so two projects were launched: to create a bright image of fish products for attracting young people and to form health eating habits in children by involving them through games in the process of preparing food; the latter initiative is being implemented in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Social Security of Norway.

Russia has also started studying markets, promoting seafood and boosting consumer demand, as was reported by President of the All-Russia Association of Fishery Enterprises, Entrepreneurs and Exporters German Zverev. According to him, the negative trends on the markets of Japan and Korea have prompted pollock caviar producers to study the situation on the Chinese market. “At the moment, we are selling them less than 1 thousand tonnes of pollock caviar but, if a promotion strategy is implemented, the amount could rise to 34 thousand tonnes”, German Zverev shared his plans with the audience. “If small fish industry companies learn to systematise demand and sense each market segment, they will be able to offer a choice of products at an optimum price.”

The subject of promoting Russian fish on the domestic and overseas markets was continued by Russia’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and head of the Federal Fishery Agency Ilya Shestakov. The government and business have now started advancing together in the direction of promoting domestic fish. “We are planning to sign an agreement on promoting Russian fish and are developing fish processing. Under the investment quota programme, coastal plants and vessels capable of modern processing will be built”, Ilya Shestakov went on. “We need harmoniously to increase supplies to the overseas market and develop the domestic market, the latter being easier to achieve if the government, fishermen, retailers and carriers join efforts.”

The situation in China, Asia’s key market, is characterised by rapid growth of the online trade in seafood, according to Alibaba Group representative Kejia Liu. This trend can be traced throughout the country, both in coastal settlements and in continental ones. In small towns, online trading is growing even faster than in big ones, though sales of premium class products are higher in the big towns. The considerable extent to which young people are involved in online purchases makes a study of the requirements of this audience a crucial task. Company experts predict that, over the next five years, cross-online sales will go up five or even ten-fold. Kejia Liu expressed the hope that Alibaba would develop this trade segment with suppliers participating in the Forum and Seafood Exhibition.

Conference participants also got to know about the overall economic situation and its forecast dynamics in Russia countries importing Russian fish, discussed changes in consumer demand for seafood and fish in Russia, the expected rise in consumption in connection with population growth and increase in expenditures of water and energy resources, development of blockchain technologies providing full information about a product’s origin, the role of environmental standards in international trade and the successes of Russian companies in undergoing MSC certification.