Blue Star Blog

5 Surprising Differences Between North American and European Consumer Preferences in Seafood

  • Motivating factors vary across diverse cultures
  • Cost remains a deciding factor in seafood consumption in North America
  • Sustainability’s impact on buying behavior increases every year, but plays a more important factor in Europe than North America

If you’re saying the wrong thing to your audience, it doesn’t matter how loud you say it – you’re not going to persuade anybody to buy your products. Consumer behaviors vary across cultures. When you know the different market preferences, you can speak to their concerns and foster positive relationships. That’s why we were so excited to read the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC’s) Understanding & Activating Seafood Consumers study for both Europe and North America. The seafood industry needs these types of far-reaching studies to properly position ourselves to culturally specific markets.

Here are five surprising differences between Europe and North America’s seafood consumer preferences:

1. North American seafood consumers care more about price than Europeans

North American shoppers put price ahead of many other features of seafood products. Out of 19 total considerations in the MSC study, price ranked fifth in North America, only behind food safety, freshness, taste, and healthiness. While shoppers in Europe also ranked price high, it was over 10% more important to North Americans.

One way you can achieve a better price point for consumers is by adjusting the product size. Compared to traditional 1-pound cans, the flexible range of pack sizes of Blue Star Foods crab meat pouches can hit a price point that is more affordable for the average shopper and provides better margins for our aligned retailers.

2. North Americans prefer familiar seafood – Europeans are more adventurous

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Americans are eating more seafood – but over 50% of all seafood consumed comes from just three species: shrimp, salmon, and canned tuna.

Europeans, on the other hand, have a more varied seafood diet and are less likely to choose something based on familiarity. According to the MSC Study, North Americans are nearly 10% more likely to choose seafood based on whether it is a type of fish they always eat.

3. Europeans care more about sustainability and environmental friendliness than North Americans

As a whole, consumers from European countries rated sustainability higher than cost. North Americans also included sustainable and environmentally friendly seafood high on the list, but not at the level of Europeans. In Europe, sustainability trumped the price of the seafood when ranking consumer preferences.

Fortunately, sustainability’s importance increased among younger demographics and continues to grow in consumer preference year-over-year. The heightened concern for sustainable seafood among a better-informed consumer base validates Blue Star’s path towards triple-bottom line sustainability (product, people, planet).

4. North Americans are more receptive to advertisements

One question posed to over 15,000 seafood consumers in Europe and North America asked which way consumers prefer learning more about sustainable seafood. One variation between North America and Europe was how receptive they were to advertisements. North Americans were 25% more likely to be interested in learning from sustainable seafood advertisements than European consumers.

According to digital advertisement news publication Digiday, many European countries are also twice as likely to have an advertisement blocker on their digital devices than Americans.

5. North Americans rank food safety higher

North American’s highest priority is ensuring the food they purchase is safe to eat. The MSC study happened at a time when several high-profile food recalls occurred, including an E. Coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce that pushed many Americans to check their fridge to make sure the food they eat is safe. Moreover, data from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control shows that residents of the USA are four times more likely to get food poisoning than Europeans.

We ensure our food safety by following HAACP and BRC protocols, from onshore enumerators receiving live crabs, throughout the entire supply chain, and to our retailers & foodservice operator partners.


Ultimately, European and North American seafood consumers were more similar than they were different. Both groups care about freshness, safety, price, and sustainability. It is essential to learn from the motivating factors across different cultures. The seafood industry can get more consumers to eat their doctor-recommended 2+ servings of seafood per week by reacting to the findings of this study.

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