How to get young people to eat fish

October 19, 2010 10:18

A new PhD thesis shows how we can get children and young adults to eat more fish, reports with reference to Nofima.

We are consuming increasingly less fish. In 2008 we consumed 18.2 kg fish and 77 kg meat per person, according to figures from the Norwegian Directorate of Health's food composition table.

The figures show that children and young adults consume less seafood than adults, and the scientists at Nofima want to do something about this.

"We have talked with parents of young children and young adults about what they think about fish, what they don't like and what prevents them from trying. Then we have looked at how we can break down these obstacles," says Professor Joop Luten, who has been the academic supervisor for the Doctoral project.

Research Fellow Themis Altintzoglou's thesis, "Young Adults and Seafood: Using the voice of consumers to develop new seafood product concepts aimed at increasing consumption", has many good tips for those working on developing new seafood products.

The responses from focus groups in Norway, Denmark and Iceland show that many young people think it is difficult to prepare fish and seafood.

Many are scared of not succeeding and damaging what they perceive as expensive raw materials. Many are sceptical of products where the fish is not clearly visible through the packaging. The responses also show that today's existing products are not tempting enough, and that young adults do not prioritise eating fish.

The study also shows that young adults are not as preoccupied with health as adults. The study indicates that there is a link between being preoccupied with health and the level of seafood consumption.
New products

In the light of the result of the focus groups, the scientists collaborated with nutritionists, food designers and other industry representatives to develop several new product concepts.

The products were then tested on 350 families with children and young people who do not east much fish.

The best result achieved was for an innovative test product that comprised portions of salmon and cod combined with wild berries.

"The result shows that the product must be visible through the packaging in order for young adults to develop interest in them," says Altintzoglou.

"Young adults also prefer than recipes and useful tips are easily accessible on the packaging. Many liked the fact that the fish was divided up into smaller portions. But a taco variant based on minced fish proved unsuccessful and got the lowest score."
Good advice

Altintzoglou provides several good pieces of advice about getting children and young people to eat more fish.

"One good tip is to combine two or more fish types and decorate them with fruit and vegetables. The children and young people should also play a part when their parents are cooking the meal. In this way they will develop ownership of the dishes, will like the food more and can more easily develop healthy food habits," says Altintzoglou, adding: "Offer several choices. Children are seldom satisfied with only one choice, particularly when it is sold as being ‘healthy'."

The scientist's conclusion is that new and more exciting seafood products can get children and young adults to consume more fish.

The research work behind the PhD thesis at the University of Tromsø is part of the Nordic collaborative project MmmmmSeafood, which focuses on promoting innovation and increasing seafood consumption.

Themistoklis Altintzoglou is 30-year-old and comes from Greece. He has a Master's degree in nutrition from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a Bachelor's degree from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

After completing his PhD, Altintzoglou will continue to work as a scientist at Nofima.

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