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Special Feature: Consumer habits

Americans’ willingness to pay for certain attributes analyzed in new survey

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
By Steven Hedlund
November 05, 2011

Cost is by far the No. 1 factor preventing consumers from buying more seafood, though almost one-fifth are still hung up on the “fishy smell” cooking fish can emit. The majority of consumers are familiar with the terms “aquaculture” and “fish farming,” but they do not have strong feelings for or against them. And more than half of consumers seek out certified sustainable seafood, but they’re not necessarily willing to pay extra for certified product.

These are among the key findings of a consumer survey commissioned by SeafoodSource.com and released on Nov. 1. The 15-question survey gauged Americans’ finfish-purchasing behaviors at the retail level; 400 adults took part in the online survey, which was conducted by Research Now in July. Respondents were asked how often they buy finfish, what’s preventing them from purchasing more, what finfish species and product forms they prefer, and where they buy their finfish, among other questions.

But the survey digs much deeper than that — 50 independent variables were analyzed to determine what consumers are willing to pay for certain attributes, resulting in a “willingness to pay” formula that seafood producers, suppliers and retailers can use to make smarter purchasing decisions. Among the attributes are product form (fresh vs. frozen), production method (wild vs. farmed), product origin (domestic vs. foreign), sustainability certification and use of hormones or antibiotics.

The survey was created by Michael Timmons, a professor in the biological and environmental engineering department at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Timmons has an extensive background in aquaculture. He co-directed Cornell’s aquaculture program for 20 years and currently teaches an undergraduate course in aquaculture, among other subjects. His research centers on developing cost-effective technology for seafood production.

Timmons became involved in aquaculture in 1985 when a colleague in the New York Department of Natural Resources asked for help in designing a pumping system for a rainbow trout farm. In 1997, he established a commercial tilapia farm that eventually produced several million pounds of product a year.

“As a private farmer and entrepreneur and a developer of water reuse technology, I realize we have the capability to basically produce any product with any set of attributes that the marketplace commands,” says Timmons. “The question for the farmer is whether creating these attributes is profitable.  So it comes down to how much a consumer is willing to pay for certain attributes that we have control over.”

SeafoodSource.com and Timmons worked together in September and October to analyze the survey results, which were fashioned into a report that includes charts, graphs and lists. Available as a downloadable PDF, the report can be purchased here on SeafoodSource.com for $795.

SeafoodSource.com and SeaFood Business magazine are owned by Diversified Business Communications of Portland, Maine.


Email SeafoodSource Editor Steven Hedlund at shedlund@divcom.com

November 2012 - SeaFood Business 

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