Study: As More Turn to Seafood, Consumers Look to Eco-Labels to Guide Purchasing Decisions

Seafood is the preferred choice of U.S. consumers looking to eat less meat, and seafood eco-labels such as the Global Seafood Alliance’s (GSA) Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) are influencing the perceptions of the seafood that they purchase and the supermarkets and restaurants that they frequent.

That’s according to new research targeting 3,000 U.S. adult consumers and 400 purchasing decision makers in foodservice, conducted by Changing Tastes and administered by GSA earlier this year.

The research sheds new light on U.S. consumers’ shifting protein-consumption behaviors. Almost one-third of U.S. consumers are “substantially” interested in eating less meat, including beef, pork and lamb.

Of those roughly 1,000 U.S. consumers, the largest percentage (39 percent) are looking to substitute meat with seafood, while 35 percent are looking to replace meat with poultry, 34 percent are eating smaller portions of meat, and 32 percent are replacing meat with plant-based foods.

With U.S. consumers looking to seafood most often as a meat substitute, eco-labels that promote responsible seafood production are more often influencing U.S. consumers to choose one product over another or one brand over another.

According to the research, 46 percent of U.S. consumers have favorable views of retail channels that display the BAP label, while 64 percent of consumers would choose products with the BAP label over other proteins. Among operators in foodservice, 56 percent of operators have favorable views of distributors that use the BAP label.

“We see a large segment of American adults ready to eat more fish and seafood if only their concerns about ocean health issues like antibiotic use in aquaculture, the presence of microplastics and industrial chemicals and forced labor at sea are addressed. For younger adults, notably Millennials and Gen Z’ers, they see their health connecting the health of our oceans through eating fish and seafood, and this is a much broader understanding of ‘healthy eating’ than just nutritional benefits. The BAP logo and GSA’s broader set of offers are well positioned to help shift our protein choices toward the oceans,” said Arlin Wasserman, founder and managing director of Changing Tastes.

Younger generations, particularly Millennials, are driving the trend toward increased seafood consumption. More than half (58 percent) of Millennials eat seafood at least once a week, while 27 percent eat seafood once or twice a month.

Millennials also have the highest recognition of the BAP label as well as the greatest trust of seafood eco-labels. Nearly half of Millennials think more positively of the store from which they purchase seafood if that store carries BAP-labeled seafood, more than any other generation. Millennials are the largest generation by population in the United States.

“Our research confirmed that consumers value the assurances that the BAP certification program delivers. We believe that education is key. This includes information about responsible sourcing and the BAP program as well as where to buy, how to prepare and what makes fish and seafood so good for me,” said Sherri Clerk, GSA’s brand strategist and a Registered Dietitian, who has done brand strategy for major food brands, including Hormel Health Labs, McCain Foods and High Liner Foods.

Clerk hosted the Dec. 15 webinar, “How Certification Can Build Trust in Seafood.”

Check out the accompanying the infographic “Building Trust to Grow the Seafood Market,” and watch Clerk’s 20-minute presentation below.

About the Global Seafood Alliance
The Global Seafood Alliance is an international, nonprofit trade association dedicated to advancing responsible seafood practices through education, advocacy and third-party assurances. Through the development of its Best Aquaculture Practices and Best Seafood Practices certification programs, GSA has become the leading provider of assurances for seafood globally. The organization’s work addresses the full spectrum of responsibility, from environmental responsibility and social accountability to food safety. Established in 1997 as the Global Aquaculture Alliance, GSA is headquartered in Portsmouth, N.H., USA. To learn more, visit