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Majority of Minnesota Consumers Willing to Buy More, Pay More for Locally Grown Fish

Research from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute analyzes consumer’s fish consumption, perceptions of state’s aquaculture industry

More than half of Minnesotans surveyed said they would buy more, and pay more, for locally grown fish and seafood in a recent consumer survey conducted for the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI). A majority also said Minnesota-raised fish is more sustainable and safer to eat than fish raised outside of the state.

More than 80 percent said aquaculture facilities are good for the state’s economy. Nearly half of respondents are interested in learning more about fish raised in the Minnesota.

AURI recently contracted Minneapolis-based strategic research firm Russell Herder to conduct a survey of 350 Minnesotans to examine consumer consumption and buying behaviors related to fish and seafood. The survey also gauged overall perceptions and awareness of the state’s seafood industry.

The results have a statistical reliability of +/- 5.3 percent. The research was conducted as part of a significant, broad-based report on Minnesota’s aquaculture industry published by AURI.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized 12 aquaculture farms in Minnesota in 2018. Primarily, these indoor and outdoor growing facilities produce baitfish and fish used in fishmeal. Some also grow common species of fish sold at grocery stores and restaurants like trout, tilapia and perch.

“Interest in aquaculture is growing in Minnesota and the region for a variety of reasons. Consumers are looking for new sources of protein and prefer to buy local. They are also interested in food security and environmental impact,” said Harold Stanislawski, AURI’s Business Development Director. “The findings of this consumer survey confirm that Minnesotans are interested in buying more locally raised fish and seafood to the benefit of our local economy.”

Among the key findings of the study is a strong potential for increasing the sales of Minnesota grown fish. Survey respondents indicated they would buy more, and pay more, for Minnesota-raised fish at restaurants and grocery stores. More than half (57% of respondents) said that eating Minnesota-raised fish, salmon, or shrimp is more sustainable and 51% said Minnesota-raised fish and seafood is safer to eat than other options.

Respondents were asked if they would be likely to buy more of certain species of Minnesota raised fish available in grocery stores and restaurants. The responses for “likely” and “very likely” include:

Shrimp 41%

Walleye 40 %

Salmon 37 %

Tilapia 27%

Trout 26%

Perch 24%

Barramundi 8%

Fifty-seven percent of consumers either agreed or strongly agreed that Minnesota-raised fish, salmon, or shrimp would be higher quality. Meanwhile, 45 percent agreed or strongly agreed that being Minnesota-raised would make such product more affordable.

More than eight out of 10 consumers agreed that aquaculture facilities are good for the local economy. Seventy percent said these businesses provide products with high nutritional value.

The survey results will be useful in identifying consumer demand and perceptions within Minnesota and to determine factors that will drive sales of locally grown fish. It will all be used to create actionable information for Minnesota’s aquaculture producers and related businesses, and to inform and support expansion of work that is already underway across the industry.

Aquaculture – the cultivation of fish and shellfish for food ­– is the fastest growing segment of global food production. The industry is valued at more than $160 billion worldwide. By 2030, production of farmed fish is projected to expand to 204 million tons, up from 179 million tons in 2018.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports per capita food fish consumption — fish eaten directly by humans — is also on the rise globally and in the United States. The per capita fish consumption in the U.S. hit a record at 19.2 pounds in 2019, up from 17.7 pounds in 2010.

“Aquaculture in Minnesota has enormous potential to help meet growing consumer demand for more sustainable protein and provide another market for Minnesota grown crops. To make the appropriate decisions and investments to reach that goal, the industry needs key insight into consumer preferences and buying patterns,” said Shannon Schlecht, AURI’s executive director. “The information gathered in this analysis will provide valuable guidance to producers, businesses and many others. It is clear from the results that there is opportunity to grow this exciting sector of our state’s economy.”

For more information on AURI’s Food Fish Survey, contact Erik Evans at eevans@auri.org or at 612-640-1120.

About AURI

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI)’s mission is to foster long-term economic benefit through value-added agricultural products. It accomplishes this by using science and technology to help develop new uses for agricultural products. It collaborates with businesses and entrepreneurs to generate economic impact in Minnesota communities by helping them take advantage of innovative opportunities in four focus areas: biobased products, renewable energy, coproducts and food. AURI provides a broad range of services, including applied research and development, scientific assistance and a targeted network of resources to develop value-added uses for crops and coproducts. To learn more about AURI, visit auri.org.