Til innholdet

Marketing and value added effects for whitefish and pelagic industries of different ecolabeling schemes

Project results
The project evaluated the establishing of a national Norwegian sustainability certification scheme against the use of the MSC. What if anything could be gained? The results show some important benefits by MSC; international recognition and accept, consumer logo and advertising cooperation. Benefits with a national program are ability to include origin and social sustainability, motivation in the fleet and industry to improve and embrace the program, control with reputation, criteria and price. MSC have served the Norwegian industry’s interests, but it is still possible to document sustainability using other options.

In Norwegian
Målet med prosjektet har vært å vurdere en potensiell markedsfordel og verdiøkning for norsk fiskerinæring av bærekraftsertifisering. Alternativene som vurderes er uavhengig tredjeparts sertifiseringsprogram (MSC) opp mot etableringen av et nasjonalt program (IRF) og muligheten for å klare seg uten bærekraftsertifisering. Spørsmålet er hva som kan oppnås ved etablering av et nasjonalt merke i forhold til å benytte seg av eksisterende globale merker.

Effektmål
• Å evaluere implementering av MSC versus en nasjonal ordning, og av å velge en strategi uten en offisiell sertifiseringsordning.
• Å undersøke hva som er nøkkelelementene relatert til bruken av sertifisering i følge industrielle kunder i utvalgte markeder.
• Å vurdere hvilke faktorer knyttet til bærekraftighet og miljøhensyn som vil være viktige i et mer langsiktig perspektiv.

Resultatmål
• Å gi norsk industri råd om hvordan de skal forholde seg til miljømerking i framtiden.
• Å få svar på om bruk av sertifisering og miljømerking gir økt betalingsvillighet, markedsadgang eller konkurransefordeler for industrielle aktører nå og i framtiden.
• Å tydeliggjøre hvilken strategi som vil gi norsk industri flest fordeler, henholdsvis MSC, en nasjonal ordning, en kombinasjon av disse eller ingen sertifisering.

Konklusjon
Studien viser at det per i dag er urealistisk å klare seg uten sertifisering i mange viktige markeder. Fordelene med bruk av MSC er tungtveiende (anerkjent internasjonalt, etablert, forbrukerlogo, reklamekampanjer), det samme kan man si om utfordringene med å etablere et nasjonalt merke (krever nasjonalt samarbeid, kostnads- og energikrevende). Likevel kan ønsket om nasjonal kontroll være sterkt nok til at fordelene ved en nasjonal strategi er verdt å vurdere. Dette er muligheter til å inkludere norsk opprinnelse og sosial bærekraft, kontroll over pris og kriterier samt motivasjon hos næringen til å fronte norsk bærekraftig fiske og ikke være sårbar for indirekte omdømmetap ved å assosieres med MSC gjennom andre fiskeriers svakheter eller generell kritikk mot MSC.

MSC har tjent norsk industris interesser greit. Det er likevel slik at man kan dokumentere bærekraft på andre måter. Alle vil ha MSC, men så godt som ingen kjøper bare MSC-produkter. Erfaringene fra Island og Alaska viser tydelig at alternative tredjepartsertifiseringer godtas.

En detaljert oversikt over oppnådde resultater sammenholdt med målsettingen(e) i prosjektet finnes i sluttrapporten til prosjektet.

Vurdering av nytteverdi og mulighetene for videre anvendelse
Hvis norsk næring beslutter å utvikle et nasjonalt bærekraftprogram er det framkommet informasjon i prosjektet som bør tas høyde for i det nye programmet. Det er også viktig å følge med på utviklingen i “bærekraftmarkedet”, både i ulike markeder og hvordan det går med de nasjonale bærekraftprogrammene på Island og i Alaska, og eventuelle andre nye nasjonale merker.

Prosjektet bidrar til kunnskap om og analyse av bærekraftsertifisering i markedet og utviklingen av et nasjonalt tredjepartsbærekraft-sertifiseringsprogram på Island. Det har slik gitt innspill til den norske næringen om en eventuell etablering av et norsk bærekraftmerke.

Background
There has been a growing focus on sustainability of world fisheries for quite some time now. NGOs have engaged in the issue, and influenced the industrial buyers to increasingly purchase sustainable seafood. Several labeling schemes have emerged, of which the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the most prominent. The label has been adopted by the leading supermarkets worldwide, and covers 94 fisheries so far. A number of leading Norwegian companies have been certified, as have some fisheries for saithe, cod, herring and mackerel, in keeping with trends internationally. Iceland is planning to launch a autonomous national sustainability scheme in near future. A key question related to the introduction of such a scheme is what, if anything, might be gained from establishing a national scheme as an alternative to the current supranational certification schemes that already exist?

In this proposed research project we intend to investigate and discuss what type of certification, if any, should be used by the Norwegian industry and why, and then, what strategies may be useful to pursue. This might be one based on existing international certification schemes (e.g. MSC), one based on an independent national scheme, perhaps some combination of the two or indeed none at all. What might be the costs and benefits related to these options? The discussion will also be seen in light of the Icelandic national scheme that is planned to be launched within a year or so.

These are some of the questions this project aims to explore and answer:
• Evaluation of the MSC system vs. a national scheme i.e. the planned Icelandic national certifications system for responsible fisheries management, and also products without any official certification on environmentally friendly and/or sustainable production.
• Explore what are the key elements related to the use of a certification on environmentally friendly and/or sustainable seafood production as perceived by the industrial customers in selected markets.
• Identify factors related to environmental concern and sustainability that what would be seen as presumptive in a longer term perspective in the European seafood market.

The species we intend to focus on are whitefish and mackerel. Selected species of whitefish are chosen because of their economic importance and history as eco-labelled products.  Mackerel is an example of a recent entrant as a main product and a contemporary contentious species due to stock migration, international disputes and the capacity of attendant publicity to reduce market credibility.

The proposed project will be conducted in close collaboration with two other FHF projects at Nofima, “Påvirkning av etterspørselen i sjømatmarkedet ved økt vektlegging av miljø, bærekraftighet, trygg sjømat, etikk og dyrevelferd: Forprosjekt” (FHF-900138) and “Sjømatnæringen: produktdifferensiering og konkurransefortrinn” (FHF-900276).

The project is well within the priorities of FHF´s “Handlingsplan for markedsrettet FoU 2009–2012” (FHF-900040), where research on the marketing effects of sustainability is mentioned as one of 11 priorities.

Research on sustainability and fish welfare are important research themes in Nofima. There are ongoing projects within the marketing research group as well as the traceability group. Furthermore, Nofima Marin has a strong group working with fish welfare related research, where several projects are engaging researchers from consumer research and biology/aquaculture.

Objectives
To evaluate and compare any potential marketing and value adding gains from an independent international sustainability scheme (MSC) versus the competition, which is (1) no sustainability scheme and (2) a national scheme (e.g. the Icelandic scheme).

The project will gain research based insights regarding different schemes for eco-labeling for the Norwegian seafood industry in the future. Emphasis will be placed on investigating the increased credibility and other possible effects perceived by industrial buyers throughout the value chain for whitefish and mackerel. The UK market together with the Swedish market will be the initial focus of the project.

Sub-goals
To assess the possible added market value of eco-labelling, the customer (including industrial buyers in retail and food service sectors) perceptions, acceptance, awareness, and knowledge of and trust in eco labels  will be studied:
 
1. Assessment of industrial buyers (processors, wholesalers, retailers and foodservice sectors) attitudes towards eco labels, and observation of any changes in attitudes over time.
2. Exploration of the awareness and understanding of selected eco-labels: Do industrial buyers have preference for particular eco-labels?

The preference content analysis will focus on the main / most important factors related to preference for eco-labels. The items/factors will be based on contemporary work reported in academic journals in marketing and related scientific schools of thought. (For example; what is the depth of their understanding of the issues communicated by these labels? And, to what extent – and in what way – are the eco labels perceived as meaningful/useful?)

The robustness of the reported preference will be measured along the key factors/items related to the preference construct within the frame of acknowledged methods.

3. Explore and analyze possible differences in perceived credibility of eco labels among industrial buyers.

Issues related to labelling schemes (with focus on MSC) and costs and benefits to the industry:
4. Explore and analyze the differences between eco labels with respect to their implementation (contents, costs, rules), including consequences of violations of the rules.

5. Assess the comparative costs and benefits of using the MSC, other eco labels and no label, including potential other non-financial costs that might need to be considered in any choice of adoption.

6. Assess the benefits (if any) of eco-labelling or not joining a sustainability scheme for the Norwegian seafood industry. Possible benefits: 
a. Improved prices;
b. higher margins / Improved profit for the companies;
c. Improved access to (new) markets or market segments (and thus increased sales volumes), widening the product assortment (and thus more attractive as supplier), or exclusion from markets/customers that demand eco-labelling;
d. Meet a requirement to maintain competitive in line with other competitors actions;
e. Promotion of eco-labelled-based USPs, generic and specific.

Assess whether eco-labels are more important on high unit value species (e.g. cod) than on low unit value species (e.g. saithe, Alaska Pollock, mackerel)

Issues related to a possible national labelling scheme:
7. Perform a gap analysis (while surveying the markets) on the chosen markets to identify any additional attributes (ethical issues, welfare, environmental, pollution etc.) that could be taken into account in a potential new national scheme that would make the scheme stand out in the jungle of eco-labels?

Expected project impact
Based on the findings in the research project, a set of advice will be developed for the Norwegian seafood industry on how to act with respect to eco-labeling in the future. It is expected that the results will reveal whether eco-labeling will be seen as a “mandatory” requirement for market access, or a mechanism to realize some competitive advantage. The type of labeling strategy that is most appropriate and profitable for Norwegian industry should be clearer from the assessment of the costs and benefits involved in implementing current schemes, with focus on MSC.  

The project will also provide valuable knowledge of potential benefits of a national sustainability scheme. Yet whilst it cannot be assumed that the costs and benefits will be equal across all sectors there may be implications for explicit generic alignment to sub-brand standards. These overarching considerations should assist identification of the probable implications of the different approaches that might be adopted.
Project design and implementation
The object of the planned research may be expressed as a matrix of two main factors. These are geographical markets (UK and Sweden) at the one hand and fish “species” (whitefish and Mackerel) at the other hand. The matrix represents, thus, a kind of task-related outline that has a strong bearing on the extent of the research project.  Further it has been suggested that the research should pursue some kind of longitudinal design – which in turn also would have implications for the extent of the project work. Considering the task as communicated from the FHF the research I suggested comprising two measuring points (as opposed to three) which will keep the over-all budget lower than a three step design would suggest.

It is proposed that the UK will be the initial market for exploration. There are several reasons for this. First, the UK market is the most mature in respect of the MSC label in terms of history and the number of eco-labelled products present. The UK retail sector is regarded as a leader in respect of product innovation and diversification and is also seen as an industrial opinion leader within the retail sector.

The research team is well-connected to central actors in the UK market through the linkage with the University of Stirling. Through its network the team has access to key resources and market intelligence on both the retail and foodservice sectors in the UK, and elsewhere. Another market to be studied is Sweden, where the environmental issues are very high on the public agenda.

The proposed study at hand is characterised by task of generating new insights on a particular topic that has not been submitted to substantial prior research. Thus, the research work will be investigating, analysing and evaluating a phenomenon that will affect the Norwegian seafood industry today and in the future. By recognising these issues, the natural choice of research design is an exploratory study.

Briefly, this would entail an initial desk research to reveal and systematise existing knowledge on the field. At the second stage an interview guide will be developed that will secure a systematic and comprehensive instrument for collection of relevant data from key informants; that is primarily industrial actors and experts on the topic. Given the potentially commercially-sensitive nature of the data and the implications of the related findings different instruments will enable deeper exploration and cross-checking of the information gathered. In addition we plan to support the information with quantitative data when this is available.

In-depth Interviews
The study team has access to an extensive network of key actors throughout fish products value chains. This has been maintained through a number of recent and ongoing projects related to wider aspects of sustainability, product differentiation, branding and various sectoral perspectives. These contacts have generated a valuable contemporary data set that can be interrogated for the purposes of this project and will help create a platform from which further questions and lines of enquiry can be developed.

Where necessary, in-depth interviews will be undertaken on a face-to-face basis, but the established relationships also enable more efficient electronic and telephone interviews to be employed. Interviews will explore factors and trends identified from the secondary data and previous work and will be used to gain insight into reflective assessments and prospective scenarios. Interviews also contribute to the creation of a reference framework of factors such as pricing, positioning and market appearance which can be checked with other techniques.

Observation
Through the course of other projects the team has developed a framework to aid analysis of products as they are presented to consumers within the market. This is significant because it provides some check on whether or not the strategic and tactical claims of decision-making actors elsewhere in the chain are delivered. A framework tailored to the needs of this enquiry will be developed and completed through two routes. One will involve a more systematic coverage from a predetermined sample of supermarkets; the other route will consist of more ad hoc observations from a sample of purposively selected retail stores and foodservice outlets. 

These techniques have the particular advantage of capturing additional qualitative data (including photo data), for example packaging types, cabinet juxtapositions with competing products, price promotions etc,  that are commonly unavailable from other sources but which do arguably represent a significant component in the consumer’s product choice. In addition systematic observation gives a greater understanding of the dynamics of the market and how it responds with varying emphasis to changes within the market.

Research related to questions 1–3 will be in close collaboration with the “Etterspørselsforhold knyttet til bærekraft og miljø”-project. On the industrial buyer level, the first round of interviews will be conducted in October/November 2010. The interviews in Sweden will be conducted in fall 2011. We seek to expand the already planned interviews with some of the issues mentioned here, and will pool some of the funding in order to obtain synergy effects of the existing and new projects. Some of the data sampling needs, however, are additional and specific to this project (observation, repeated studies, experiments and studies of existing material from other projects).

Activities and milestones
Phase 1:
December 2010–March  2011:
• Desk research and literature review
• Determine the measurement instruments for the research; refine and plan the detailed methodology.
• Interview with the Icelandic sustainable fisheries organisation
• Report on Phase 1; no later than March 2011

Phase 2:
January 2011–December 2012:
• Assessment of the implementation practice of eco-labels (focus on MSC): Spring 2011
• Observations in shops: continuous activity
• In-depth-interviews with industrial buyers (retailers, processing companies, food service): Spring/ summer 2011 in UK; autumn 2011 in Sweden
• Analysis and dissemination of the results: Autumn 2011-December 2012
• Writing up one Scientific publication
• Publications in industry journals.
• Oral presentations at industry seminars and conferences

Phase 3: 
2013
• Repeated measurements of attitudes and awareness among industrial buyers. Spring 2013
• Analysis and dissemination of the results.
• Writing up one Scientific publication
• Final report: Advice to the Norwegian industry: December

Project team
The project will be carried out by researchers at Nofima Marked and the University of Stirling. The institutions have a long record of conducting joint research (since 1994). The University of Stirling has good connections with the UK retail and food service sectors as well as seafood processors. Professor James A. Young has also chaired the Fish Sustainability Information Group which published a report on different sustainability schemes in 2009. Professor Young will be leading the work in UK. Nofima Marked has been working with environmental, sustainability and fish welfare related projects for many years, and the theme is one of the main research areas in the group. Nofima Marked has the overall project lead and will be responsible for the work in Sweden and participate in the UK work as well.
Dissemination of project results
The results of the project will be disseminated by several means.
• Results will be presented to the reference group and other industrial seminars and conferences where feasible
• There will be on-going information at Nofima web-site
• Results will be presented in industry journals
• The project will also result in two scientific articles in international peer reviewed journals
keyboard_arrow_up