For the fish sector, the lockdown and restart periods have provided an opportunity to focus greater attention on sustainable, quality products. Efforts that have been rewarded with positive market data.
Fish is good for us. And also for the economy. This is clear from data generated by Italian Chamber of Commerce agency BMTI, which shows that the fish sector is on the road to recovery, with shares beginning to stabilise and demand returning to more normal levels, thanks also to the gradual reopening of restaurants. A very different picture compared to that of the three-month lockdown period, when Italy saw its fishing activity slow significantly due to a lack of demand for fresh fish products, caused specifically by the closure of restaurants, canteens and hotels. From March to May, the catch was down by 40% compared to the same period in 2019.
Consumption is also on the up, after March brought a 30% drop in terms of volume and a 29% drop in terms of value with respect to the same month in 2019. Since businesses have reopened, purchases have increased by an average of 30% with respect to the lockdown period, with peaks of 50% in coastal locations just ahead of large cities. But Italians are also eating more fish than the same period last year, with an upturn of roughly 4% with respect to 2019. Further confirmation of a more buoyant market can be seen with pricing, which is returning to typical summertime levels.
For the fish sector, the reflection time imposed on all production activities by COVID-19 served as an opportunity to focus more on matters of quality and sustainability, key to the future of the segment, as confirmed by some of the main players in the supply chain.
Certified, sustainable and... authentic
“Considering they are stock products, the beginning of the crisis brought about a significant rise in sales and we were among the preferred companies for consumers who sought practicality and convenience",– explains Angela Neglia, Sales Director Callipo Giacinto Conserve Alimentari. "The emergency has definitely led to a boost in e-commerce too, a trend we intend to continue. In addition, health and sustainability trends have an important impact on our sector, with progressive growth in the sales of tuna in organic extra virgin olive oil. We have always bought average-sized adult fish caught using methods that safeguard other species, with all the fishing vessels being Dolphin Safe certified”.
Claudia Pellitteri, Marketing Manager at Macaluso Srl is seeing similar trends: “Consumption has significant increased during the pandemic, both for premium and lower priced products, with a preference for larger sizes (over 160 g) and multi-packs. With our time-honoured Coalma brand, we adopt transparent labelling that highlights information such as the fishing zone, species caught and sustainability information. We have been Friends of the Sea certified since 2014. In terms of healthy eating, we are seeing the success of tuna with a drizzle of oil, which more flavoursome than tuna in brine but with a lot less calories than the classic tuna in oil”.
“We respond by processing the raw ingredients, already carefully selected at origin, in the most natural way possible", confirms Lisa Spreafico, Sales Director for Deligusti, in talking about new market demands. "We have reduced our use of additives and studied calibrated salt solutions while, in terms of sustainability, we presented in preview our eco-friendly Abipack, a new patented pack comprising two parts, paper and plastic, that can be easily separated and recycled. The project has allowed us to reduce our use of plastic by 70%, thus lowering the CO2 impact. Overseas demand is also on the rise and we currently export to 14 countries and focus on Italian-made products”.
Another firm focusing on sustainability is Calabra Ittica, as outlined by General Manager Felice Alvaro: “We have long held the view that all human activity should be in balance with the planet. The goodness of natural ingredients meets the honest work of authentic people. Our fish is caught using methods that are low-impact, sustainable, selective and respect the marine world (we are FOS certified, an international framework that follows FAO criteria). Customers are increasingly attentive to origin and production methods. And the lockdown has only accentuated the focus on all this. In our opinion, newly aware customers are unlikely to return to less selective food choices”.