Seafood consumption in Norway continues to fall and is now at its lowest level since 2003, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).

Since 2015, seafood consumption in the country has been falling, with the slight exception of the pandemic year 2021, but during the last two decades consumption has never been lower than it is now.

In 2003, Norwegians ate an average of 21.22 kilograms of seafood per person. Last year, this figure was 18.96 kilograms, a decrease of almost 11 percent, according to figures from market research company Flesland Markedsinformationer.

Lack of knowledge about preparation, time constraints and availability may explain part of the reason for the drop in consumption, but surging prices must also take a good share of the blame.

"We see that it is seafood products that are increasing in price the most, and people buy less of them," said Christian Chramer, CEO of the NSC.

However, sales of cheaper seafood have increased recently, he said.

"This suggests that people would like to have fish," said Chramer. In a survey conducted by the NSC, as many as 70 percent of Norwegians said they want to eat more fish.

Could be even less

To estimate how much seafood Norway eats, Flesland Markedsinformationer compiled figures from wholesalers and suppliers, providing an overview of the total amount of seafood sold to shops, restaurants and large households, measured in product weight.

"But the measurements say nothing about wastage, or about fish that are not eaten for various reasons," said the NSC. "Thus, the consumption figures may be lower than estimated."

To get a picture of seafood consumption, frequency is also crucial, for example how often people eat seafood.

A new, international survey conducted by Ipsos for the NSC found only four out of 10 Norwegians eat fish or seafood as often as the health authorities recommend, which is significantly below the international average.

In most countries, the recommendations are to eat fish at least two to three times a week.

For the Nordic and Baltic countries, new dietary advice is being prepared that takes into account both the climate and health benefits of seafood.

In the new dietary advice, the recommendations are to eat between 300 - 450 grams of fish and seafood per week, of which 200 grams should be fatty fish such as salmon, trout herring or mackerel.

Price increases to blame

Seafood is among foods in Norway experiencing the highest price growth in recent years, according to thee consumer price index of Statistics Norway (SSB).

From 2015 to 2022, the price increase for fish and shellfish was 36.3 percent, only beaten by fat and oil products, which had a growth of almost 42 percent.

Into 2023, prices have increased further. For fat and oil, the increase was close to 58 percent, while seafood products saw price increases of 55 percent, compared to 2015.

"As for seafood, much can be explained by the fact that Norwegian seafood is a sought-after export product," said Chramer. This means that it is the global market that largely controls the prices.

"In times of a weak krone, prices here at home will have an extra impact," he said.

The high prices are reflected in Norwegian consumers' shopping habits. During the first six months of the year, the decline in seafood sales in shops continued, compared with the same period last year.

However, while the number of more expensive products such as fresh salmon fell sharply, sales of less expensive items such as frozen salmon, fish balls, fish cakes and fish sticks increased, according to figures from NielsenIQ.

Nevertheless, the overall result is a volume decrease in seafood sales also in the first half of this year.