Sector Trend Analysis – Fish and seafood trends in Belgium

July 2018

Trade summaryFootnote 1

Belgium, located in the heart of Europe, is a small country of 11.7 million inhabitants. With its comprehensive road, rail, and waterways infrastructure in addition to its information-technology networks, as well as its world-class harbors, Belgium provides direct access to and from the rest of the world into the European Union (EU) countries.

In 2017, Belgium was the 18th-largest importer of fish and seafood products in the world. Belgium imported US$2.3 billion worth of fish and seafood or 1.6% of fish and seafood global trade.

Belgium imported products from an array of countries; however, its three top suppliers in 2017 were its European partners: the Netherlands with a 24.3% market share, France with (9.2%), and Germany (7.1%). Canada was ranked 14th supplier with US$47.6 million in 2017.

Belgium's top imported fish and seafood products from the world in 2017 were frozen shrimp and prawns (US$451.7 million), fresh/chilled salmon fillet (US$142.7 million), and smoked salmon (US$128.6 million).

As the 28th-largest supplier of fish and seafood to the world, in 2017, Belgium's exports were valued at US$1.3 billion. Belgium's top destination countries were France (US$402.5 million), the Netherlands (US$353.7 million), and Germany (US$181.1 million).

Consumer attitudes

According to The Fish Site, a platform of resources for the aquaculture and commercial fishing industries, health benefits of eating fish are one of the highest in Belgium among the European countries, and that Belgian consumers perceive fish as both healthy and nutritious. Eating fish is also considered relatively safe as opposed to risky. European consumers in general and Belgians in particular perceive fish as delicious and tasty. Consumers across European countries agree that fish and fish products are good value for money.

Belgian consumers' attitudes toward fish and seafood products
Attitude Belgium Denmark Netherlands Poland Spain
Eating fish is healthy 6.10 6.38 5.99 6.45 6.25
Eating fish is nutritious 5.74 6.30 5.62 6.17 6.22
Eating fish is safe 4.84 5.01 5.06 5.74 5.45
Eating fish is risky 2.87 3.11 2.97 2.77 2.51
Fish has a good taste 5.93 5.97 5.41 6.33 5.87
Eating is delicate 4.94 5.83 4.40 5.83 4.78
The bones in fish are unpleasant 5.65 5.17 5.56 5.62 5.33
Eating fish is ethically correct 4.77 4.60 4.61 5.11 4.95
Eating fish is trendy 3.70 4.15 3.77 4.64 3.54
Eating fish is boring 2.38 2.31 2.68 2.52 2.99
Eating fish is expensive 5.71 5.32 5.32 5.82 5.28
Fish gives good value for money 4.46 4.72 4.70 4.74 4.10

Source: The Fish Site: 2016 EU consumers survey

Note: Attitude items were measured on a 7 point agree-disagree liker scale (1 = totally disagree, 7 = totally agree)

Consumption trends

Fish consumption per capita reached 25.03 kilograms (kg) in 2016 in Belgium, according to Food and Agriculture Organization – Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). This is a slight decline of 0.3% (70 grams (g)) than in the previous year. Historically, fish consumption per capita in Belgium was the highest in 2008 with 26.3 kg per year per capita, and lowest in 2002 with 21.9 kg.

Belgium fish and seafood consumption per capita per year in kilogram
Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Consumption (kg) 25.11 26.28 24.36 25.22 26.08 25.10 25.03

Source: FAO, Consumption of Fish and Fishery Products (2018)

When comparing Belgium to other EU countries, fish consumption per capita amounted to 33.48 kg in France, 43.66 kg in Spain, 23.16 kg in Denmark, 22.11 kg in Netherlands and 10.62 kg in Poland in 2016. Belgium is within the EU fish consumption average of 25.1 kg/per capita/per year.

Belgium fish and seafood consumption benchmarking, per capita per year in kilogram
Belgium Denmark France Netherlands Poland Spain
2010 Consumption (kg) 25.11 22.12 33.53 20.95 10.88 43.66
2016 Consumption (kg) 25.03 23.16 33.48 22.11 10.62 42.38

Source: FAO, Consumption of Fish and Fishery Products (2018)

Consumer trends

According to the Marine Stewardship Council, Belgian consumers are looking for products that are both good for them and good for the environment. A product's health and wellness benefits are influential purchase decision drivers for more than half the consumers surveyed in that market. Fish and seafood products made with fresh, natural, and/or organic ingredients carry similar weight with consumers.

Belgian consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable goods. Consumers across all income levels and categories are willing to pay more, if doing so ensures they are paying for sustainable fish and seafood products. Fish and seafood product launches substantiate these trends in the Belgian market over the last few years.

Fish and seafood product launches in Belgium by claim from January 2013 to December 2017

Description of this image follows.
Description of above image
New Launches by claim by %
Claim 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Total Sample
Ethical - Environmentally Friendly Product 19.35% 26.47% 29.51% 25.71% 60.00% 32.84%
Microwaveable 25.81% 20.59% 24.59% 2.86% 32.50% 21.89%
No Additives/Preservatives 9.68% 14.71% 13.11% 11.43% 15.00% 12.94%
Ease of Use 12.90% 8.82% 18.03% 11.43% 10.00% 12.94%
Ethical - Animal 0.00% 8.82% 13.11% 5.71% 15.00% 9.45%
Total Sample 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%

Source: Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), 2018

By the numbers

Belgians rely heavily on international trade for their total fisheries supply. Imports, which supply approximately two-thirds of this total increase or decrease as the domestic catch falls or rises, respectively.

The commodities imported in the largest quantities during 2017 were frozen shrimp and prawns, live, fresh or chilled mussels, fats and oils of fish and their fractions, prepared/preserved tunas/skipjack/bonito (not minced) and prepared/preserved fish, whole or in pieces.

Top ten belgian fish and seafood imports from the world by volume in 2017
Rank HS code Description Metric tonnes
Fish and Seafood 313,056
1 030617 Frozen shrimp and prawns 42,450
2 030731 Live, fresh or chilled, mussels 22,820
3 150420 Fats and oils of fish and their fractions 19,775
4 160414 Prepared or preserved tunas, skipjack and Atlantic bonito, whole or in pieces (excluding minced) 18,452
5 160419 Prepared or preserved fish, whole or in pieces (excluding minced) 11,672
6 030441 Fresh or chilled fillets of pacific salmon 11,490
7 160420 Prepared or preserved fish (excluding whole or in pieces) 10,062
8 030444 Fresh or chilled fillets of fish of the families bregmacerotidae 7,433
9 030481 Frozen fillets of pacific salmon 7,273
10 030541 Smoked salmon 6,647

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2018.

HS code: Harmonized System code

While the most important Belgian fish and seafood imports by value were frozen shrimp and prawns, fresh or chilled salmon fillets, smoked salmon, prepared/preserved tunas/skipjack/bonito (not minced) and Fresh or chilled fillets of fish of the families bregmacerotidae.

Top ten Belgian fish and seafood imports from the world by value in 2017
Rank HS code Description Metric tonnes
Fish and Seafood 2,319,383,964
1 030617 Frozen shrimp and prawns 451,749,858
2 030441 Fresh or chilled salmon fillets 142,742,491
3 030541 Smoked salmon 128,605,002
4 160414 Prepared/preserved tunas/skipjack/bonito, not minced 92,983,917
5 030444 Fresh or chilled fillets of fish of the families bregmacerotidae 86,330,043
6 030481 Frozen salmon fillets 78,129,929
7 030731 Live fresh/chilled mussels 75,137,536
8 160529 Prepared/preserved shrimp and prawns in airtight container 68,155,312
9 160521 Prepared/preserved shrimp and prawns not airtight container 55,857,571
10 160420 Prepared/preserved fish, NESOI* 47,087,292

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2018.

HS code: Harmonized System code
*NESOI: Not Elsewhere Specified or Indicated

Belgium is a net importer of seafood products. Imported fish from inside the EU mainly came from the Netherlands, France, Germany, Lithuania, and Sweden. Outside the EU, main import countries included China, India and Vietnam. Almost all exports are bound for EU Member States, predominantly France, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

Top ten suppliers of fish and seafood to Belgium and top imported products in 2017 (based on Belgium's import data)
Rank Country Value (US$) Market share Top import supplied Top import value (US$)
World 2,319,378,465 Frozen shrimp and prawns (excluding cold water shrimp and prawns) 451,749,858
1 Netherlands 564,553,314 24.3% Live fresh/chilled mussels 73,200,892
2 France 213,469,509 9.2% Fresh/chilled fillets of Pacific, Atlantic, and Danube salmon 23,663,366
3 Germany 164,881,717 7.1% Frozen shrimp and prawns (excluding cold water shrimp and prawns) 30,269,953
4 India 133,651,748 5.8% Frozen shrimp and prawns (excluding cold water shrimp and prawns) 114,771,743
5 Vietnam 130,389,887 5.6% Frozen shrimp and prawns (excluding cold water shrimp and prawns) 69,785,855
6 Lithuania 96,981,168 4.2% Smoked salmon 76,126,854
7 Sweden 96,702,677 4.2% Fresh/chilled fillets of Pacific, Atlantic, and Danube salmon 61,023,699
8 Bangladesh 90,609,004 3.9% Frozen shrimp and prawns (excluding cold water shrimp and prawns) 88,845,826
9 Denmark 78,716,040 3.4% Fresh/chilled fillets of Pacific, Atlantic, and Danube salmon 12,403,457
10 China 69,904,471 3.0% Frozen fish fillets, NESOI* 19,362,628
14 Canada 47,630,265 2.1% Live lobster 28,406,774

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2018.

*NESOI: Not Elsewhere Specified or Indicated

Retail sales

According to Euromonitor International, in 2017 the Belgian processed fish and seafood retail sales were estimated at 30,400 tonnes and worth an estimated US$457.7 million. The chilled processed fish and seafood accounted for 18.0% of the total processed fish and seafood retail value sales in Belgium, followed by frozen fish and seafood (36%), and shelf stable fish and seafood (44.1%).

Belgium's processed fish and seafood retail value sales (historic) in US$ millions and period growth (%)
Category 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 CAGR* 2013-17
Total processed fish and seafood 424.4 437.6 446.2 453.0 457.7 1.9%
Shelf stable fish and seafood 188.0 197.8 204.1 209.2 212.3 3.1%
Chilled processed fish and seafood 76.9 78.2 79.3 80.7 81.9 1.6%
Frozen processed fish and seafood 159.5 161.6 162.7 163.2 163.6 0.6%

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018.

*CAGR: compound annual growth rate

From 2013 to 2017 shelf stable fish and seafood was the best performer with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.1%, followed by chilled fish and seafood (1.6%), and frozen fish and seafood (0.6%).

For the forecast period of 2018-2022, retail sales are expected to see a small CAGR of 0.8%. Chilled fish and seafood is expected to lead retail sales with a CAGR 1.2%, followed by frozen fish and seafood (0.9%) and canned fish and seafood (0.7%).

Belgium's processed fish and seafood retail value sales (forecast) in US$ millions and period growth (%)
Category 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 CAGR* 2018-22
Total processed fish and seafood 460.7 464.2 466.0 470.7 476.2 0.8%
Shelf stable fish and seafood 212.9 213.8 214.0 216.0 218.7 0.7%
Chilled processed fish and seafood 83.0 84.6 85.4 86.2 86.9 1.2%
Frozen processed fish and seafood 164.8 165.9 166.7 168.6 170.6 0.9%

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018.

*CAGR: compound annual growth rate

However, the volume sales saw a decline from 2013 to 2017 with average of −1.3% CAGR, validating the FAO observations on Belgian consumers' fish and seafood consumption trends.

Belgium's processed fish and seafood retail volume sales (historic) in tonnes and period growth (%)
Category 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 CAGR* 2013-17
Total processed fish and seafood 31,900 31,600 31,200 30,800 30,400 −1.2%
Shelf stable fish and seafood 14,300 14,200 14,000 13,800 13,500 −1.4%
Frozen processed fish and seafood 14,100 13,900 13,700 13,600 13,400 −1.3%
Chilled processed fish and seafood 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 0.0%

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018.

*CAGR: compound annual growth rate

Foodservice

Belgium is highly urbanised and its population has a frenetic lifestyles. The population of Belgium is overwhelmingly urban, with 97% of all inhabitants living in urban areas in 2017; furthermore, the country's population density was the second highest in Europe, after the Netherlands. These social characteristics have created opportunities for foodservice to offer the convenience of their services, an attribute that is much appreciated by consumers living in cities. In terms of value, 945 euros (US$1,177) are spent each year on eating out of home per inhabitant.

However, Belgium has kept its own specificities and out of home consumption much superior to the French neighbour as a comparison. Moreover, the plurality of its communities and of its consumption habits makes it a unique market.

The tastes and preferences of modern, urban Belgian consumers are evolving. The most popular establishments are the fast casual with their cozy design and atmosphere, their environmentally friendly offerings and their healthy and original recipes. Within casual dining, this trend translated into the strong popularity of premium fish and seafood, featuring high-quality ingredients and original accompaniments.

The fish and seafood foodservice volume sales in Belgium are very stable; the volumes have hardly changed in the past 5 years. Euromonitor International predict that the foodservice volume will see a slight increase of CAGR 0.9% by 2022.

Belgium's processed fish and seafood foodservice volume sales (historic) in tonnes and period growth (%)
Category 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 CAGR* 2013-17
Total processed fish and seafood foodservice 10,700 10,600 10,500 10,500 10,600 −0.2%
Shelf stable fish and seafood 3,600 3,600 3,600 3,600 3,600 0.0%
Chilled processed fish and seafood 1,900 1,900 1,900 1,900 1,900 0.0%
Frozen processed fish and seafood 5,200 5,100 5,100 5,000 5,100 −0.5%

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018.

*CAGR: compound annual growth rate

Belgium's processed fish and seafood foodservice volume sales (forecast) in tonnes and period growth (%)
Category 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 CAGR* 2018-22
Total processed fish and seafood foodservice 10,600 10,700 10,900 10,900 11,000 0.9%
Shelf stable fish and seafood 3,600 3,600 3,600 3,600 3,600 0.0%
Chilled processed fish and seafood 2,000 2,000 2,000 2,100 2,100 1.2%
Frozen processed fish and seafood 5,100 5,100 5,200 5,200 5,300 1.0%

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018.

*CAGR: compound annual growth rate

Canada's performance

While Canadian seafood is perceived favourably in Belgium, the price it commands relative to competitors is determined by how closely it satisfies the taste and appearance preferences of Belgian consumers.

Local competition from northern European suppliers continue to affect Canadian supply, but the implementation of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), is expected to help fill key EU opportunities including frozen cold water shrimp, frozen scallops and frozen cod which are suit after by the Belgian consumers. Most of the tariffs will be eliminated gradually within 3, 5, or 7 years. See the chapter-by-chapter guide to the key provisions of the Agreement.

In 2017, Belgium was Canada's 10th-largest export destination for fish and seafood, providing US$53.3 million (based on Canadian export data). The leading products exported from Canada to Belgium were frozen lobsters, including in shell (US$22.1 million), fresh/chilled lobsters, (US$21.9 million), and live eels (US$1.9 million) (Global Trade Tracker, 2018).

Canada's exports of fish and seafood to Belgium increased by a healthy CAGR of 14.0% between 2013 and 2017, part of this increase was due to a growth in supply of the lobsters either fresh, frozen or processed exported to Belgium. Overall, fish and seafood was Canada's second-most significant export to Belgium, representing 22.6% of all Canadian agri-food and seafood products exported to that country in 2017 (Global Trade Tracker, 2018).

For more information

International Trade Commissioners can provide Canadian industry with on-the-ground expertise regarding market potential, current conditions and local business contacts, and are an excellent point of contact for export advice.

For additional intelligence on this and other markets, the complete library of Global Analysis reports can be found on the International agri-food market intelligence page, arranged by region.

For additional information on Seafood Expo Global 2018, please contact:

Ben Berry, Deputy Director
Trade Show Strategy and Delivery
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
ben.berry@canada.ca

Resources

Sector Trend Analysis: Fish and Seafood Trends in Belgium
Global Analysis Report

Prepared by: Karim Zarrouki, Market Analyst

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