Sales of oily fish to families with young children have increased by 23% in the past year as parents cook more and look to feed their kids healthier options, new figures from industry body Seafish have indicated.

The Nielsen research shows that sales of salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovy to consumers with children aged under 10 have all shown a significant increase in the 12 months to 19 April.

Value sales of salmon to this group have risen 24% from £60.3m to £74.5m, sardine sales are up 30% from £2.6m to £3.4m and mackerel sales are up 20% from £12m to £14.4m. Anchovies saw the biggest uplift, albeit from a very low base, with sales rising 45% to £431,000.

Sales had been driven by an increased awareness of the health benefits of Omega-3, said Seafish head of environment Philip MacMullen.

Supermarket advertising campaigns had also played a key role in encouraging shoppers to sample oil-rich fish.

"The explosion of cookery programmes and the popularity of celebrity chefs has also undoubtedly made fish a less daunting prospect for apprehensive cooks," added MacMullen.

Initiatives such as Seafish's 2006 SuperHumans campaign, which encouraged schoolchildren to eat fish as part of their school lunch, and more recently the introduction of the Schools Health Promotion and Nutrition (Scotland) Act 2007, which set standards for oily fish to be on primary school menus north of the border, were also a factor, he said.

The message about the benefits of oily fish had started to really sink in about two years ago, said Philip Andrade, group sales and marketing manager of Nor-Sea and International Fish Canners.

However a spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said there was not yet enough evidence to suggest that oily fish helped improve children's mental abilities.