aquaculture salmon

Aquaculture makes salmon a “winning protein”

“There is no seafood that can match farmed salmon’s fresh year-round availability, health benefits and value,” – RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness analysis.

By Fabian Dawson

Aquaculture has made salmon one of the world’s most popular seafood products contributing to the fish’s status as a “winning protein” around the world, says a new report from Rabobank.

But the industry needs to reposition farmed salmon from being a “luxury” food item to being the leading healthy, sustainable and affordable protein for sustained growth, said the report entitled “Keeping Salmon on the Top of the Menu”.

“There is no seafood that can match farmed salmon’s fresh year-round availability, health benefits and value,” study co-author Gorjan Nikolik told SeaWestNews in a telephone interview from the Netherlands.

“Because of aquaculture, there is no seasonality for salmon and this provides for consistent supply and quality throughout the year,” he said.

“From a global market perspective 80 percent of all salmon consumed is farmed Atlantic salmon,” he told SeaWestNews.

The report said advanced logistics and cold-chain systems enable farmed salmon to be delivered fresh from large-scale production sites in Norway, Scotland, Canada, and Chile to all Western markets.

“No other seafood species can replicate this in Western markets,” concludes the report by RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness

This unique value chain capability enables the farmed salmon industry to create new moments of consumption, and also to be a leader in trend-based product development, said the report, which is co-authored by, Beyhan de Jong, an associate analyst with Rabobank, a Dutch multinational banking company.

“For instance, sushi has been an important contributor to salmon’s success, and recently, salmon poke bowls are becoming very popular as a ready-to-go or healthy fast food option. Currently, salmon is even emerging as a breakfast food, typically a segment of the market where seafood is least represented

 Other farmed seafood categories such as seabass and seabream or tilapia and pangasius have not managed to create the same value proposition as salmon, due to their smaller size and low fillet yields, said the report.

According to the report, demand for salmon is growing through new markets and new products.

Currently, the European Union as a whole is the biggest market for Atlantic salmon. It is the third-most consumed seafood species after tuna and cod, but it is the category that experienced the highest demand growth in the last decade.

For instance, in Spain, salmon has been the only seafood category that has grown in consumption in the last few years.

In Germany, salmon is now the most popular seafood choice. The consumption of salmon started with smoked salmon in the German market, continued with sushi, and now fresh fillets and many different categories of salmon are also prevalent.

The US, the second-largest market for farmed salmon after the EU, also shows strong growth potential, especially in central parts of the country, where salmon consumption is the lowest.

In the last couple of years, farmed salmon has overtaken canned tuna consumption to become the second most preferred seafood category after shrimp in the U.S.

But most of the new salmon customers are in emerging economies such as China and Brazil, according to the report.

“Salmon fits Chinese consumers’ expectations for high-end, foreign, healthy, and modern food. Salmon consumption in Brazil, known for high consumption of animal proteins, has also grown rapidly in the last decade, and the expectation is that it will keep increasing going forward, with the adoption of the more convenient pre-packed fillet products.”

The report said aquaculture has pushed salmon for a sizeable share of the centre of plate with efficient feed conversion ratios, no apparent animal welfare issues, perceived health benefits, modern appeal, versatility, and convenient product offerings.

However, it cautioned that with emerging alternative protein products, the competition may get tougher in established or new markets.

“The future competitor of salmon for the centre of the plate may not be a fish or an animal, but a completely new category – one we now barely have a name for and only loosely define as alternative proteins,” said the report.

Salmon farmers need to keep innovating, and always be the leaders in consumer perception by producing a healthy and sustainable protein, the report stated.

“This is necessary in order to retain its status as the affordable luxury protein. If this does not happen, it will open the door to alternatives and competing products, which could cost the aquaculture sector a large part of its demand growth,” it concluded.


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