Why seafood richly deserves its place on the health podium

Mel Groundsell, Seafood
Mel Groundsell, Seafood

For those of us with an interest in seafood consumption growth, it’s hard not to feel optimistic, says Mel Groundsell, corporate relations director at Seafood.

Firstly, after years of a downward sloping demographic of aging fish eaters, things are looking decidedly on the up, with a new, younger generation of diners turning to seafood in a quest for a more innovative, cosmopolitan cuisine.

Secondly, there’s the question of health, and the growing recognition of seafood’s omega 3 status playing a USP ace in both the fats v sugar/carbs debate and the ongoing heart health disaster.

And lastly, there’s the environment, which never really left our headlines – when it comes to carbon footprint, seafood beats animal protein fins down. We know seafood is the tastiest, healthiest and most sustainable protein and we’re setting ourselves the challenge of making it the nation’s number one.

While it’s true to say that things are looking up for fish, even the most enthusiastic advocate would have to accept that we have quite some way to go to make a claim to ‘the nation’s favourite protein’!

As things stand, we’re in a sorry fourth place. Chicken takes the gold, with around 330g pp/pw; pork weighs in at hefty silver medal position on 300g pp/pw; and beef claims the bronze with 200g pp/pw.

Poor old seafood isn’t even on the podium! We might not have a medal, but we’re certainly in the running, and what’s more, the numbers do stack up.

The average rate of UK seafood consumption sits at around 145g pp/pw - which equates to a lowly 1.13 portions.

If we could turn the UK on to eating the recommended two portions of seafood a week, we’d not only go a long way on the journey to podium glory, we’d make a pretty big dent in the NHS’ £9bn heart-health bill too. So what would it take to make it happen?

For those of you thinking the task is just too big, take heart from the rise to glory of the GB cycling team, which recognised that even the biggest challenge is made up of smaller, incremental wins.

I’m taking inspiration here from Dave Brailsford, the British Cycling Team’s Performance Director, who described his philosophy in simple terms: “We’ve got this saying, ‘performance by the aggregation of marginal gains’ – it means finding a 1% margin for improvement in everything you do.”

For us, that aggregation is going to come in the form of collective effort.

We know we can make seafood number one, but we also know we can’t do it alone.

Seafish delivers best when it delivers in partnership.

Just look at the success of our collaborative industry campaigns: The National Fish & Chip Awards, which generated a whopping £1.1 bn worth of media coverage for the sector; Seafood Week which clocked up an increase of 6% or £6.4 million of seafood sales; or our new 2-a-week campaign, which launched this month with a host of promotional materials to help get industry on board (www.2aweek.co.uk).

So add your marginal gains to ours and with a bit of luck and a whole lot of passion, we can at least get seafood on the podium - and if we do that, we’ll definitely deserve a medal!