Suppliers and retailers should resist the urge to hide the fact fish has been “previously frozen” - consumers will happily buy it if they are given more information, new research has found.
Researchers at Norway’s food research institute Nofima ran two focus groups and a survey with British consumers and found they generally preferred fish labelled as “fresh” - that is, not previously frozen - and were concerned about the quality of fish labelled as “thawed”.
However, when more detailed information about the thawed products was made available, such as where and when the freezing had taken place, these concerns were mitigated.
This suggested labelling thawed fish with additional - but brief - information could bring significant benefits for the seafood industry, said Nofima researcher Themistoklis Altintzoglou.
“We think our study indicates that the information of the fish being previously frozen should not be ‘hidden’ on the back of the package in little letters, or in using terms such as ‘may have been previously frozen’,” he said.
The term ‘frozen at sea’ had received particularly positive feedback from consumers, he said, and suppliers should therefore consider using it on a visible part of the product.
Nofima’s research also shows consumers preferred thawed to fresh products when they were not told which is which. By law retailers must specify if the fish they sell has been previously frozen, if not doing so would otherwise mislead shoppers.
The fish used in Nofima’s tests was wild-caught Northeast Atlantic cod, subsequently isolated in sea ranches.
Nofima’s research will be published in the British Food Journal although the date of publication has not yet been confirmed.