As a seafood product, Atlantic salmon holds a unique place in the market. Not only has it capitalised on changing consumer trends to become one of the world’s most popular fish products, it has also transcended the entire category to successfully compete with other proteins for the centre of our meals. Its growth rates in recent times have surpassed those of pork, poultry, beef and wild-caught seafoods, and demand continues to grow at rapid rates in both established and emerging markets.
Over the last 30 years, poultry and seafood, at the expense of red meat, have driven animal protein consumption. While beef has lost favour with consumers, poultry and seafood consumption has increased. Furthermore, within the seafood category, the growth has largely been led by farmed fish and shellfish.
With efficient feed conversion, lower environmental impacts and no perceived animal welfare issues, and as a good source of lean protein, aquaculture – and particularly salmon farming – is meeting consumers’ food production expectations. Added to this, salmon is universally regarded as a healthy and nutritious protein that can be applied to a broad variety of convenient meal options and cuisines. Salmon is, for example, responsible for a lot of the success seen in sushi, and vice-versa, while salmon poke bowls have become very popular as ready-to-go or healthy fast food options.
Today, Atlantic salmon is positioned as one of the top three most eaten seafood options in the western world, and its consumption is also growing at a rapid rate in many other regions. Indeed, while the European Union and United States provide the two biggest markets for the product and both offer opportunities to gain new customers, a lot of recent analysis points to the considerable potential offered by emerging economies.
Among the relative newcomers to salmon, China is expected to be the main growth market for consumption due to its changing consumption habits. This fish fits Chinese consumers’ expectations for high-end, foreign, healthy and modern food. At the same time, salmon consumption in Brazil, known for high consumption of animal proteins, has also grown quickly in the last decade and this trend is expected to continue.
Aside from ticking multiple consumer boxes, salmon owes much of its success to the way that it’s brought to market. Advanced aquaculture production, alongside sophisticated logistics and supply chains ensure year-round availability, whilst innovative processing and new product concepts provide the platform for deeper market penetration.
As demand continues to grow, the only long-term concern centres on ensuring that the supply can continue to be elevated to meet the increasing market requirements, and at prices acceptable to consumers. While the supply of Atlantic salmon has grown by more than 400% since the mid-1990s, the annual rate of production growth has diminished in more recent years. There are also just a few coastlines around the world where traditional salmon farming is feasible in terms of providing the right temperatures and water flows. Most of the global supply comes from Norway, Chile, Scotland and Canada. For 2018, it’s estimated that total salmon production increased by around 6.5% to more than 2.1 million tonnes, whereas demand has been rising at much greater rates and this has led to higher prices in most markets.
To help overcome future production obstacles and to also deal with biological challenges, the salmon industry is exploring a variety of closed containment solutions – some land-based and some offshore – with hundreds of millions of dollars already invested. With Atlantic salmon continuing to be an on-trend protein in a growing number of markets, there’s plenty of incentive to see these innovations succeed.