Last summer's oil spill that dumped an estimated 200 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico still has lingering effects on consumers' eating behavior. A new study by Technomic found that 23 percent of respondents' seafood consumption decreased during the spill and, notably, remains down by 19 percent.

Almost one-fourth of consumers admitted to eating less fish as a direct result of the spill, even though only 2 percent of seafood eaten in the United States comes from the Gulf.

"Even though the majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, the spill and those indelible images from the gulf have led to some behavioral changes," said Mary Chapman, director at Technomic. "While these changes may not be permanent, they have lasted beyond the media's coverage of the spill and are a testament to the strength of that imagery."

Technomic's new “Market Intelligence Report: Seafood” offers insights into growth opportunities and consumer preferences with regard to seafood consumption.

Other report findings include:

  • The seafood category as a whole lost sales and units last year, as operators faced increased competition from varied-menu casual dining leaders, quick-service giants and niche players featuring sushi, fish tacos or healthier fare.
  • Consumers perceive fish and seafood to be inherently healthy, but many still choose unhealthy preparations when ordering seafood at restaurants.
  • Restaurants seem to be positioning seafood on opposite sides of the spectrum: both as comfort food and as a platform to launch unique and innovative flavors or ethnic influences, particularly on the appetizer section of the menu.
  • Sustainability continues to be a key concept, with many restaurant chains choosing sustainable species and educating customers about those choices. Several broadline foodservice distributors and foodservice management firms have also committed to providing only sustainable seafood.

Technomic's latest report includes data from the research firm's MenuMonitor online trend-tracking resource, which analyzes the menus of more than 1,200 top chains, emerging concepts and independent restaurants. The report profiles 50 leading and emerging seafood restaurant concepts.


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