COVID-19 makes a big change to the European consumption pattern

COVID-19 has affected the European fish and seafood market. It has made some pre-existing consumption trends stronger and also created completely new trends. While some of the changes may last, others are expected to fade away as the world recovers from COVID-19. We look at some of the COVID-impacted consumption trends of the European market and ways to overcome them. Awareness of how COVID-19 has influenced the European consumer is important to remain competitive.

Important trends

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more often, European fish and seafood consumers focused on the health benefits and the sustainability of what they bought. Consumers in retail especially were demanding more sustainability certifications and farm to fork traceability. More and more often, producers separated themselves from competitors with romantic origin stories. The pandemic has strengthened these trends. Retail became the main outlet for fish and seafood, and the pandemic created greater uncertainty among consumers. 

Some of these trends are likely to continue - for example, the consumers’ increased need for trust, leading to higher demand for certified products. Consumers are focussing more on sustainability. This means that there is an opportunity for you to increase your market access. Show your client and the end customer that your product was sourced sustainably. Sustainable means you take care of the environment, employees and the communities that you work in. This may give you an advantage over your competitors. 

Many European governments began to promote eating locally produced fish and seafood to protect the local industry. This is one of the most challenging trends for exporters from developing countries. You should be aware of this trend, as you may find yourself competing with fish and seafood that are not usually on the market. It is important to understand the different trends that are affecting the end-consumers’ needs. That way, you can keep up with those trends that offer you opportunities. It is not yet clear whether the local fish and seafood trend will last.

The effects of lockdown

Lockdowns in European countries closed food service. Still, the industry and consumers adapted. Restaurants that were sit-in offered takeaway and delivery options. This way, they could continue doing business. Some wholesalers catering to food service began direct-to-customer sales/online sales. Some consumers wanted to eat restaurant-quality seafood. This increased sales of easy-cook and luxury seafood. This purchasing trend is expected to last through the summer, as it is BBQ and holiday season. Also, people cannot experience the luxury they are used to. The trend of wholesalers directly targeting consumers is, however, likely to decrease.

In north-western countries, lockdown measures varied. Southern countries had complete lockdowns. Both fear the economic impact. Eastern Europe took action quickly, and the economic effect was relatively minimal. Still, for the fish and seafood sector, food service is a vital outlet for products. Importers and processors across Europe are thus facing financial challenges. Stock build-up may negatively impact prices, and most importers are buying only what they know they can sell. This is expected to continue until the end of the year, at least.

As the restrictions ease across Europe, there is the potential for the demand for fish and seafood to increase again. This gives people across the industry hope. Still, it will take time before the food service industry has recovered completely. Be proactive in developing your products, relationships with your customers and communications. This way, customers know the unique selling points of your product. Retails sales in Europe will keep going strong, particularly in the pre-packed and canned segment. 


This news article was written for CBI by Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal.

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