‘Do you know how shampoo is made? And that’s how it is with the food people eat, too’

Editorial Staff

Consumers find the thought of using insects and microalgae in salmon feed hard to digest. Most people do not even know that wild salmon eat insects in the rivers, according to a new report from Nofima.

As the quest for sustainability intensifies, the salmon industry faces a novel challenge: convincing consumers of the merits of insects and microalgae in fish feed. A recent study by Nofima, a leading Norwegian research institute, highlights consumer reluctance towards these unconventional ingredients, despite their potential environmental benefits.

The research, spearheaded by Katerina Kousoulaki, a senior scientist at Nofima, underscores a significant knowledge gap among consumers. While respondents expressed a fondness for salmon, their understanding of the fish’s natural diet and farming practices was rudimentary. Many were unaware that wild salmon consume insects, and misconceptions about farmed salmon being laden with antibiotics were widespread.

In response to this knowledge gap, Kousoulaki’s project aims to diversify salmon feed sustainably using algae and insect meal. These ingredients offer a promising alternative to traditional feed components, aligning with the industry’s need to enhance environmental sustainability. The initiative, part of the Millennial Salmon project funded by the Research Council of Norway, includes collaborations with Sintef Ocean, Mowi, and Cargill, among others.

Focus group discussions with French consumers revealed deep-seated misconceptions. A common belief was that farmed salmon is heavily treated with antibiotics, an assertion that is incorrect, according to Nofima.

Furthermore, many participants erroneously thought that salmon feed on algae in the wild. Such misunderstandings complicate efforts to introduce new feed ingredients.

François Saulais, from the retail giant Auchan, emphasized the importance of addressing these misconceptions. He noted the critical need for innovative, sustainable feed solutions to meet the anticipated growth in aquaculture over the next two to three decades. Saulais pointed out that consumer education is crucial for the successful adoption of new feed ingredients.

Market expert Sandra Bretagne, whose firm Insightquest conducted the consumer survey, is optimistic but realistic about the path ahead. She asserts that acceptance of algae and insect meal in salmon feed will require time and effective communication strategies.

“We need to start the communication on a very basic level. Consumers have little knowledge about industrial processes”, says Sandra Bretagne, pointing to an example with a completely different product: shampoo.

“Do you know anything about the industrial processes behind the production of shampoo? Very few do. And that’s how it is with the food people eat, too – they tend to have only very superficial knowledge.

The Millennial Salmon project aims to mitigate environmental impacts by incorporating black soldier flies and microalgae into salmon feed, potentially replacing fish oil and soy. A comprehensive life cycle analysis will evaluate the environmental advantages of these new technologies.

Conducted in late 2023, the consumer survey involved 24 French participants aged 20 to 45, all of whom occasionally purchase salmon. The findings underscore the necessity of bridging the knowledge gap to foster acceptance of sustainable feed innovations in the salmon industry.


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