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Consumers are not sceptical about algae in salmon feed. Here is an algae-based ingredient with a high content of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.
Consumers are not sceptical about algae in salmon feed. Here is an algae-based ingredient with a high content of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

Consumers need to accept algae and insect meal in salmon feed

Consumers find the thought of using insects and microalgae in salmon feed hard to digest. Most people do not even know that wild salmon eat insects in the rivers.

“The respondents loved eating salmon, but did not know much about the fish,” says Katerina Kousoulaki.

She is a senior scientist at Nofima, and is currently leading a project aimed at creating sustainable salmon feed from algae and insect meal. 

In the future, the salmon industry will require a greater diversity in sustainable raw materials which are beneficial to both salmon and the environment. Microalgae and insects are promising raw materials.

In this context, she has been listening in on focus groups where French consumers of salmon have discussed their beliefs and thoughts.

“My impression is that we need to educate the consumers,” Kousoulaki says.

Portrait photo of a woman with dark brown hair smiling.
Katerina Kousoulaki is leading the project on developing sustainable salmon feed from algae and insect meal

Misconceptions abound

It turns out that consumers know very little about Norwegian salmon. What's more, they think they 'know' several things that are in fact wrong:

“Everyone was sure that farmed salmon contains lots of antibiotics – which is not correct. They like to eat salmon, but they don’t know much about how it is produced,” she says.

When the existing knowledge is lacking, it becomes even more challenging to talk about feed with new raw materials.

“If you ask people what salmon eat in the wild, many will answer algae and shrimp. However, salmon don’t eat algae, and they don’t eat much shrimp, either. They mainly feed on fish, and in rivers, they feed on insects,” Kousoulaki explains. 

She adds that many of the surveyed consumers had a positive attitude towards using algae in fish feed, but did not think that insects were natural for salmon to eat.

The need for more feed

François Saulais in the multinational retail group Auchan is tasked with selling Norwegian salmon to French consumers.

Portrait photo of an older man.
François Saulais points out that there will be a shortage of fish feed ingredients currently in use in the future.

“Our customers’ knowledge about the products they buy is not as good as we would like. This does not come as a surprise to us; the only surprise is that more people than we thought believe that fish farmers use antibiotics and growth hormones, a misconception we need to address,” says Saulais.

He is the international coordinator for the seafood division, responsible for studying and helping to develop the aquaculture segment and to propose value chains that ensure deliveries of high-quality and more sustainable fish for all the countries in which Auchan operates. 

In is work, he has seen how important it is to develop new sustainable feeds for both salmon and other species:

“When we look at the needs in aquaculture industry's projected increases in production demands over the next 20 to 30 years, we see that current feed supply levels are insufficient. That is why Nofima is taking the initiative to find alternatives,” he says.

A small black soldier fly perched on a finger.
Larvae from the black soldier fly are used in the new feed.

Sceptical about insects

Market expert Sandra Bretagne is a leading partner in the consulting company Insightquest, which conducted the consumer survey using focus groups on behalf of Nofima and Auchan. 

She is confident that it is possible for consumers to accept salmon being fed more insects and algae – but it will take time and focused communication efforts.

“We need to start the communication on a very basic level. Consumers have little knowledge about industrial processes,” says Sandra Bretagne.

She highlights an example with a completely different product: Shampoo.

“Do you know anything about the industrial processes behind the production of shampoo? Very few do. And that’s how it is with the food people eat, too – they tend to have only very superficial knowledge," she says.

Packaging of Norwegian salmon.
The Auchan hypermarket chain sells Norwegian salmon to French consumers.

Algae and insect meal used to make sustainable feed

In the Millennial Salmon project, scientists are collaborating with stakeholders from all parts of the value chain, from production of raw material for feed and fish farming to the store.

The project is led by Nofima and funded by the Research Council of Norway. Other partners include Sintef Ocean, Mowi, Cargill, Innovafeed, Corbion, Labeyrie Fine Foods and Auchan.

The assumption for the project is that the production of black soldier flies and microalgae requires little space and environmental resources compared to current feed production. Millennial Salmon focuses on how heterotrophic microalgae and insect meal can replace fish oil and soy in salmon feed. A life cycle analysis (LCA) will be carried out in the project to determine the positive environmental impact from the new technologies.

The consumer survey referred to here was conducted in the fall of 2023 with 24 French consumers between 20 and 45 years of age, from different backgrounds, who all stated that they occasionally buy salmon.

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