Because today’s super-engaged consumers are increasingly seeking out products that they can trust to tick all of the appropriate boxes in terms of environmental responsibility, sustainability and ethical sourcing, it’s now a basic requirement to provide sufficient evidence of where a food comes from and how it was produced. The same applies to satisfying the public’s need for quality, safety and security guarantees, with confirmation needed that the increasingly stringent hygiene measures which have been adopted at national and international trade levels are being met.
Beyond these core supply chain assurances, its essential that food – and particularly seafood with its interaction with marine environments – incorporates the new values that consumers hold dear, and their desire to make informed decisions when buying products and supporting brands.
Positive purchasing decision-making
With a commonly-held mindset along the lines of ‘we owe it to the ocean to get it right’, the very last thing conscientous consumers want to discover is that they’re in some way contributing to such actions as illegal fishing, irresponsible fish farming practices or even labour abuse. As such, a fish is no longer just a fish. Regardless of whether it comes from a fishing boat or was produced on a farm, it has a story that people want to know as part of their need to understand exactly what it is that’s being offered for consumption in their stores or restaurants.
To ensure that the seafood category not only measures up in this new consumer landscape, but can also capitalise on these progressive values and purchasing habits necessitates traceability. Traceability gives the backstory of that delicious fish or shellfish; it documents and evidences those essential, connected steps in what are often complex supply chains. Ultimately, traceability has the power to give end-consumers the confidence they need to buy seafood.
With knowledge comes opportunity
But it’s not just consumers that benefit from a fully-traceable supply chain. Specifically to fish processing, a growing number of the more market-savvy companies are finding that the transparency of information offers the potential to improve business-to-business trust and consumer confidence through access to key specifics. These details include but are not limited to when, where and how the fish was caught, the temperatures and times of handling and storage; the transit and handling countries and the time in each location; as well as all of the processing that has been undertaken.
Of course, while a lot this data arguably goes above and beyond what the general public currently wants to know (although that could easily change), for the processors’ customers, ensuring that every raw material is identifiable and can be located up and down the value chain with instantly retrievable information, and also that production or quality issues can be quickly resolved, certainly increases faith in their capabilities.
Maximising market potential
As well as being key to abiding by the regulations governing the acquisition, handling and distribution of products, improved traceability also makes it possible to fulfil growing buyer demand for sustainable seafood. In some systems, it will also assist in meeting certification requirements, while in the marketplace, it presents a significant opportunity for companies or their brands to achieve competitive advantage.
With shifting demographics, new technologies, more informed attitudes and greater all-round awareness reshaping markets all over the world, and with food manufacturers also seeing declining loyalty from consumer groups, traceability offers a sure-fire way for seafood to keep pace with the escalating and evolving demands.