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Gulf Spill Has Lingering Effects on Seafood Consumption at Restaurants, Finds Technomic

CHICAGO (January 26, 2011 - Business Wire)—Last summer’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico released an estimated 200 million gallons of oil over the course of three months. Despite the fact that only about two percent of fish and seafood eaten in the United States comes from the gulf, the spill has continued affecting consumer behavior. A new study by Technomic finds that 23 percent of consumers say their consumption of seafood at restaurants decreased during the spill. Perhaps more importantly, 19 percent of consumers were still eating less fish even as much as four months later as a direct result of the spill.

“Even though the majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, the spill and those indelible images from the gulf have led to some behavioral changes,” says Mary Chapman, Director at Technomic. “While these changes may not be permanent, they have lasted beyond the media’s coverage of the spill and are a testament to the strength of that imagery.”

Technomic’s new Market Intelligence Report: Seafoodoffers restaurant operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry insights into growth opportunities and consumer preferences with regard to seafood consumption.

Interesting report findings include:

  • The seafood category as a whole lost sales and units last year, as operators faced increased competition from varied-menu casual-dining leaders, fast food giants, and niche players featuring sushi, fish tacos or better-for-you fare.
  • Consumers perceive fish and seafood to be inherently healthy, but many still choose unhealthy preparations when ordering seafood at restaurants.
  • Restaurants seem to be positioning seafood on opposite sides of the spectrum: both as comfort food and as a platform to launch unique and innovative flavors or ethnic influences, particularly on the appetizer section of the menu.
  • Sustainability continues to be a key concept, with many restaurant chains choosing sustainable species and educating customers about those choices. Several broadline foodservice distributors and foodservice management firms have also committed to providing only sustainable seafood.

Technomic’s Market Intelligence Report: Seafood includes data from Technomic’s exclusive MenuMonitor online trend-tracking resource, which analyzes the menus of more than 1,200 top chains, emerging concepts and leading independent restaurants. It features data culled from Technomic’s Consumer Trend Reports, as well as proprietary consumer research. Lastly, the report profiles 50 leading and emerging Seafood restaurant concepts.

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