Retail buyers mull over eco-labeled seafood in Japan
December 26, 2007
Seafood buyers at large-scale retailers are taking wait-and-see
attitudes towards eco-labeled seafood products, although showing
interest, a recent survey by Suisan Times found.
In the questionnaire-based survey of Japan`s major 17 retailers,
such as Aeon, Uny and Life corporation, five said they`re
"very interested" in selling eco-labeled products,
while the rest answered they were "somewhat interested."
All the buyers were aware of the MSC, while 12 out of 17 knew
MEL Japan. Considering the Japanese eco certifier was just
officially established in December, visibility with buyers
is relatively high.
Three retailers answered they were selling the MSC certified
eco-label products and another one said it's under active
consideration. Four said they were considering carrying the
MSC products, while 47% said they would start dealing with
the MSC depending on rival companies` outcomes and trends,
testing the water if consumption propensity really becomes
In a section where respondents were asked what key factors
decided considering carrying the MSC products at their outlets,
many said it is either "Judged by independent discretion"
or "Judged by precedents." Only one said "Customers
demand" influenced, representing that consumers` recognition
of the MSC is still low in Japan.
Most buyers didn`t show positive attitudes towards newly established
Japan`s eco-label on the ground that it has not certified
any fisheries and products. Only 13% said they would pursue
the possibilities of selling the MEL Japan products at this
A buyer at one of the largest retailers said, "We will
decline to comment on the MEL due to the lack of information,"
and this comment seems to represent the normal action among
most decision makers. This aspect could be changed when the
MEL certified eco-label products once go into circulation.
It is interesting to note that many buyers remain silent onlookers,
though keeping an eye on the future developments. If you look
at the situation from a different angle, by creating a catalyst,
it could trigger a big shift because the Japanese have tendency
to be greatly affected by trends.
A buyer at a supermarket chain based in Tokyo said, "We
are gathering information on the MSC and go through its future
penetration to other outlets in a comprehensive manner."
Many respondents think eco-standard should be simple and have
fear that multiple programs will cause customers confusion.
Osaka based retailer, listed on both the Tokyo and the Osaka
stock exchange, said "Eco-labeled seafood will never
take root among consumers if standard is not easily understandable".
Finally, we will refer some comments on eco-labeled products
from the respondents.
"It is not a big deal whether or not to put eco-labels
because resource marine conservation should be done on a routine
"The British way of thinking is not necessarily accepted
in Japan. To make the MSC pervasive, the program needs attunement.
It should be well blended with British way of values and Japanese
"Adoption of eco-labeled seafood products is necessary
not only to preserve the resources, but also to rejuvenate
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