To gain a better understanding of habits, preferences and expectations of Russian consumers regarding fisheries products, VARPE and Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VTSIOM) carried out a consumer survey in August 2018. The results of the consumer survey indicated the attitude of consumers to fish products, how they choose them, how often do they buy them, the most important criteria when choosing fish products, and other details.
When choosing between meat, fish and poultry, Russian consumers more often prefer meat, while fish is second. Men have a clear preference for meat products, while women choose meat and fish products equally frequently. Senior consumers put fish products first, whereas young consumers below 25 years old allocate the lowest priority to fish products. “Meat eaters” live mostly in the North Caucasian Federal District, the Ural Federal District and the Far Eastern Federal District, while citizens of the North Western Federal District value fish equally with meat. Russian consumers generally have a common perception of fish products: the majority of the respondents (76%) perceives fish as healthy product, which is necessary for healthy diet and regards it as favourite product (60%). Nearly half the respondents (49%) indicated fish as an alternative source of protein and a dietary product low in calories (42%). However, only 30% of the respondents stated fish as a product which is frequently consumed by their families, while nearly half the respondents (48%) expressed that it is a product they would like to eat more frequently.
Consumers have an accurate idea of how much fish they eat
Overall, Russian consumers have a realistic opinion about the recommended norms and their actual consumption of fish products. The majority recognises the necessity of fish consumption and agrees that their current consumption level is below the recommended level (which is 21-22 kg per capita, according to the Ministry of Health of Russia). This is most recognised by women with children. Perceptions about the necessary consumption frequency is almost aligned with factual consumption: 47% of the respondents believe that fish products have to be consumed several times a week, and 44% of the respondents consume fish product with this frequency.
Domestic consumer demand for fish products is considered high; 81% of the respondents stated that they bought fish products at least once a month, including 33% of the respondents who bought fish products approximately once a week or more, 23% of the respondents who bought it several times a month and 25% of the respondents who bought it once a month. About 27% of the respondents admitted that bought fish products more infrequently due to financial issues, 11% stated that they started to buy fish products more often and 60% of consumers did not change the frequency of the purchases of fish products. Consumers who buy fish products most often live in the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia (90% at least once a month and 41% at least once a week), while the respondents who buy fish products most seldom reside in the South Federal District (73% and 32% respectively).
Appearance and freshness determine whether consumers buy fish or not
Regarding the criteria for choosing fish products, appearance is the most importance criteria for Russian consumers (54%), followed by quality/freshness (49%), best before date (43%) and price (42%). According to the respondents, among the factors which limit fish consumption were product affordability (37%) and products of good quality which are difficult to find (35%). Among younger consumers (18-24 years old) 13% limited their fish consumption because they felt fish was toxic and that it smelled. Difficulty in preparation was mentioned by 7% of the respondents. Less than half the respondents stated their preferences for marine fish products (42%), a minor share of the respondents had a preference for freshwater fish products (16%), while the rest did not have any special preference. Freshwater fish is most frequently chosen by the respondents residing in rural area. Nearly 74% of the Russian consumers have their favourite ways of preparing fish. Fried fish was the most preferred option, followed by baked fish. Salted and lightly salted fish, fish salad and fish soup were among other favourite fish dishes, as well as fish cakes and smoked fish.
A cluster analysis of socio-demographic characteristics of Russian consumers revealed four clusters, including ”fish fans”, who love fish products and buy them frequently; ”aesthetical consumers”, who like fish products, but think it is difficult to find fish products of high quality, therefore they buy fish products less frequently than they would like; ”rational consumers”, who buy fish products moderately because of healthy attributes and do not want to buy fish more frequently, and ”indifferent consumers”, who eat fish rather frequently, but do not regard it as a special or important product. The cluster analysis identified the geographic location of the consumer clusters. “Fish fans” reside mostly in the Volga Federal District (30%), North-western Federal District (28%) and the Northern District (27%), but also in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The lowest share of “fish fans” was observed among consumers living in the Far Eastern Federal District and among consumers below the age of 25 years.
Ambitious plans to promote fish consumption
In order to boost consumption and sales of fisheries products on the domestic market, a series of marketing activities have been included in the strategy developed by the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries. The overall marketing approach will highlight Russia’s historic and cultural ties with fish and seafood. A new element is the brand “Russian Fish,” which aims to popularise fish consumption, inform and educate existing Russian consumers and attract new ones. Special focus is placed on promotion of fish products with high value-addition in the retail and food service sectors, online sales, and though other channels.
Looking beyond the domestic market, the Russian fisheries industry prioritises exports. According to the strategy, the export value of Russian fish and seafood products is to increase by 200% in the period 2018-2030. “The Russian Federation has an excellent starting position for the promotion of domestically produced fish products”, said Ilya Shestakov, Russia's Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Head of the Federal Agency for Fishery. ”The geography of the country and the variety of fish species allow at least 10 geographical names with a special attractive range of fish and seafood, including Murmansk cod, Kamchatka crab, Black Sea plaice, Caspian sturgeon among others”. Local brands should be united under one managing center which helps to promote and increase the value of Russian fish around the world.