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To the Editors of American Demographics:

Do you have any demographic information about people who eat and buy seafood?

Monica Peña

Ogilvy & Mather


Dear Monica:

It seemed appropriate to answer your question this month since thousands of seafood vendors and buyers will gather in Massachusetts mid-March for the International Boston Seafood Show. According to the National Fisheries Institute, Americans shell out nearly $50 billion a year ($32 billion at restaurants and $17 billion in stores) for seafood. And for all those clams, they get a boat-load of fish. In fact, in 2000 (the latest year for which data is available) the average American scoffed down 14.9 pounds of fish and shellfish, up from 12.5 pounds in 1980 and 10.3 pounds in 1960. Not surprisingly, tuna is the species eaten in the greatest quantity in this country: Americans consumed 3.6 pounds of tuna, on average, in 2000. But they also loaded their plates with 3.2 pounds of shrimp, 1.7 pounds of Alaska pollack and 1.6 pounds of salmon.

New York City-based market research firm Mediamark Research, Inc. (MRI) reports that 46 percent of adult Americans are seafood eaters (meaning they eat it at least once during a six-month period). Men and women are equally apt to belly up to the seafood bar, but blacks and Asians are significantly more likely than whites and Hispanics to do so. Specifically, 47 percent of whites and 41 percent of Hispanics eat seafood on a regular basis, compared with 51 percent of blacks and 52 percent of Asians. In addition, MRI reports that more adults age 35 to 54 eat seafood (50 percent) than either young adults or older Americans. Only 39 percent of adults age 18 to 24 eat seafood, as do 45 percent of adults age 65 and older.

When it comes to a fresh catch, residents of coastal states are the biggest consumers of fresh seafood. According to research firm Simmons Market Research Bureau in New York City, inhabitants of Vermont, Louisiana, Rhode Island and Delaware eat the most fresh seafood. But that doesn't mean their landlocked brethren don't enjoy a good seafood dinner from time to time — they just have to thaw it out first. Residents of the heartland are more likely to eat frozen fish and shellfish than the average American. In fact, the people of West Virginia, Montana, North Dakota, Indiana and South Dakota are some of the most voracious consumers of frozen fish in the nation.


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In the past six months, have you purchased…?

Crab 7% 11% 14% 7%
Coated fillets 8% 6% 6% 5%
Raw fillets 12% 14% 13% 9%
Fish sticks 16% 18% 18% 15%
Lobster tails 3% 4% 4% 3%
Scallops 4% 3% 5% 4%
Breaded shrimp 6% 10% 8% 6%
Raw shrimp 15% 18% 22% 14%
Imitation seafood 2% 2% 3% 2%
Source: Mediamark Research, Inc., 2001
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