Analysis of seafood consumer characteristics

Schwenk, Elizabeth
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University of Delaware
Background: Seafood is an excellent source of essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the diet. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) advocate the intake of two servings of fish per week noting a link with potential cardiovascular health benefits. Many health organizations, including American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association, concur with this recommendation. Objective: The purpose of this study was to advance our understanding of consumer perceptions and reasons for current decisions regarding seafood consumption. It is important to identify differences in characteristics of those who eat the recommended amount of seafood and those who do not, in order to promote seafood consumption to the population as a whole to meet the national recommendations. Design: This secondary data analysis of a nationwide Internet survey compared current seafood eaters who consume the DGA recommended amounts (CSE-R) with those not meeting recommendations (CSE-NR), former seafood eaters (FSE) and non-seafood eaters (NSE), to further clarify the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of consumers with regard to seafood. Statistical analyses included cross tabulations of consumption groups with demographic variables and individual items found in questions on attitude, actual knowledge, self-reported knowledge (SRK), purchasing decisions, dining out and sources of seafood information. Factor analyses were performed on questions of attitude, actual knowledge, SRK, purchasing decisions and sources of seafood information. Indices from the factor analyses and demographic variables were used for linear regressions. Subjects: The original survey was a nationwide Internet survey conducted from July 27, 2006 to August 7, 2006 with a total of 1062 respondents. Results: Results indicated only 19.2% reported eating seafood in the recommended amount (CSE-R) while the majority (68.5%) of participants (CSE-NR) reported consuming some seafood but in inadequate amounts. Those in the CSE-R group tended to be older with more education. Results of my study indicated SRK to be the most significant factor in influencing seafood consumption in general. This factor included such things as seafood handling, preparation, quality and contaminants. However claiming to be ‘knowledgeable’ is a subjective measure and the perception of being knowledgeable is not necessarily an indication of a person’s actual knowledge. Variables of older age, a higher education level and the use of ‘professional or expert’ sources for seafood information were also related to seafood consumption. Conclusion: In theory, if SRK could be equated to actual knowledge, then increasing the SRK of items in that variable could lead to an increase in peoplemeeting the DGA for seafood consumption. Future research will be needed to test the assumption that SRK is identifying and measuring actual knowledge. If this assumption proves correct then those items of SRK identified as being most important in consumers’ purchasing decisions (seafood quality, safe handling, preparation and storage) should be the focus of future messages.