M&J Seafood has commissioned an independent report to highlight the importance of sustainable sourcing and utilising lesser known species of fish and seafood.
The Sea of Change report surveyed 300 caterers in August this year to gain an understanding of their opinions and behavioural patterns concerning sustainability as well as the strength of consumer demand for responsibly sourced products. The fresh fish specialist for Brakes also conducted a parallel online survey amongst 200 of its own customers.
Environmental issues around fish and seafood were deemed an important factor in the decision making of 61.8% of all M&J customers while the majority of the independent sample claimed to be interested but said that it had little impact on their purchasing.
Two thirds of the independent sample didn't add any reference to where their fish is sourced on their menus while a fifth did. Of M&J customers, 67.6% occasionally made reference while 19.4% didn't. Three quarters of caterers and 94.5% of M&J customers said they would add information about where their fish is sourced if it would add value to their business and customers' experience.
All respondents agreed that customers ask more questions today about the sustainability of fish and seafood than they did two years ago. Hotels, restaurants and pubs reported an increase in receiving daily and weekly queries, while workplace caterers experienced a smaller rise.
Caterers showed a willingness to try lesser known species of fish such as Pollack at 61%, squid at 59% and whiting at 52%. Some 82% of M&J customers had served squid, followed by Pollack at 81% and grey mullet at 62%.
The least tried species were megrim and pangasius with 87% of caterers not featuring it on menus and a further 83% also not featuring tilapia. M&J customers ranked megrim, albacore tuna and gurnard as the least used species with 66%, 63% and 60% not used in this order.
Respondents were unanimous in the belief that well briefed staff is the most effective means of selling sustainable and unfamiliar species of fish to customers with 77% of the independent sample and 72.6% of M&J customers holding this view. Table cards were found to be the second most successful means by which operators could reach guests.
A further 60% of independent respondents and 57.1% of M&J customers cited specials boards and other POS materials as effective aids to communicate with customers.
M&J Seafood's group director for fish and seafood, Mike Berthet, commented: "At M&J we believe that chefs and suppliers have an enormous role to play in supporting the sustainable management of our fish stocks. It's our responsibility to provide the support that chefs need to make informed sustainable choices, and drive uptake amongst consumers.
"If we give them the knowledge and tools they need to educate their customers, then we can help slow down and reverse over fishing and bring commercial benefits to all," he added.
Sea of Change is available to view on the M&J Seafood website: www.mjseafoods.com
By Emma White