A demand-driven seafood market – Impressions from the Brussels Seafood Expo Global

Convenience, health, transparency, and sustainability are the main trends shaping food consumption globally, and the seafood sector is no exception. Consumers are looking for simple and convenient meals that are also healthy, and producers are responding with product innovations. At the Brussels Seafood Expo Global in late April, we saw a new range of value-added products, indicative of the move the seafood industry is making to lift the volume and, more importantly, the value of seafood sales.

How to increase fish consumption

Although generally speaking healthy food is trending, many consumers are still reluctant to purchase seafood products. While seafood is considered healthy, consumers may leave seafood on the shelf because of the preparation needed. Some shoppers don’t find seafood very convenient, or may not have the know-how to cook fish. By offering easy-to-prepare solutions, seafood companies are further increasing the appeal of (shell)fish products. The snack category has also been an underdeveloped category in seafood so far (relative to terrestrial proteins), but this is now changing.

Trend-based product development on the rise

The Brussels Seafood Expo Global is the world’s largest annual seafood trade exposition. At this year’s event in late April, we saw that seafood companies are increasingly responding to consumer needs by offering a new range of innovative value-added products. From microwavable fish soups and pollock skillet cuts for salads to ready-to-eat poke bowls with a shelf life of up to eight days, seafood companies are targeting consumers that want convenience in their food choices or don’t have much experience when it comes to making a seafood meal.

Packaging also plays a big role here: not only can it be attractive, but it can also make a product more convenient, fresh, and safe. We’re seeing more skin packs for a wide variety of seafood products – from pollock to salmon fillets. Skin packs are popular with both consumers and producers, as they help preserve the product’s shape and texture, and also offer a see-through presentation of the product. Producers are also adding a lot of info to the packaging, such as product origin, certifications, nutritional value, cooking suggestions, and how the product is sourced.

“And the Seafood Excellence Global Award goes to…”

The Seafood Excellence Global Awards recognise the best seafood products shown at the Brussels Seafood Expo Global in terms of health, nutrition, convenience, innovation, retail packaging, overall eating experience, and taste. Some of this year’s finalists emphasise the convenience of their products with ‘nutrition on the go’ or ‘eat fish anytime’ slogans, while others describe their products as a “new, entertaining way to enjoy seafood”. Most of the products are designed to be cooked in ten minutes or are available ready-to-eat from the grab-and-go section of the supermarket. Among the finalists were also a wide range of products for snacking, such as smoked salmon on a string (like chorizo from the sea), surimi ‘sea slices’ (as an alternative to sandwich meat), and salmon snack sticks.

This year’s innovation award went to the Viciunai Group for its surimi lasagne sheets, which come in an oven-ready tray. Clearwater Seafoods’ bacon-wrapped scallops received the retail packaging award, with its product-viewing panel, product benefits, and preparation instructions. Iceland’s Finest won the seafood product line award for its Finest Seafood Starter kits, which are designed for consumers who would like to have seafood at home, but don’t have the knowledge or time to cook it from scratch.1

Figure 1: A selection from the finalists and winners of the Seafood Excellence Global Awards 2018


Source: photos taken by author, 2018

Convenience is key for seafood consumption growth

Currently, baby boomers are consuming more seafood products than millennials. However, with better availability, convenience, transparency, and innovation, seafood products can also become more appealing to millennials and Generation Z, both of whom are more experience-driven, health- and environmentally conscious, and convenience-oriented. Our impression from the Brussels Seafood Expo Global is that some seafood companies are already working hard on meeting the needs of the millennial generation with fast and easy-to-cook products as well as appealing and informative packaging.

1 For the full list of winners, see Global Seafood Expo Global 2018

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