Ángel Marqués de Ávila. Journalist
Canned products have more of a presence than ever as part of a modern, balanced, diversified diet, as they use a technique for preserving natural flavors over a long period of time, using authorized processes that don't negatively impact the quality of the food or the health of consumers.
Every year, billions of steel cans and glass bottles for vacuum sealing are produced for preserving food. All foods can benefit from the safety provided by steel and glass packaging, especially fish and vegetables. Canned food is safe, inexpensive, available in a wide range of options, and it allows us to eat a varied selection all year round.
Spain is one of the leading exporters of canned and pre-prepared fish and seafood, in the EU and in the world, an accurate reflection of this industry's success in implementing its sales strategy in markets outside Spain. Internationalization is a strategic pillar of the industry that processes and preserves fish and seafood, and it will remain a priority aspect of the future for promoting sector development, in terms of selling products and ensuring access to raw materials.
Global production of capture fishing in the last year amounted to 93.4 million tons, of which 81.5 million tons came from sea water and 11.9 million tons from continental water.
Fish and seafood exports, and their by-products, on the rise
Exports of canned fish and seafood increased by 16.21% in volume and around 22% in value in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year, according to data from Anfaco. This has led to international sales in the first few months amounting to 103,717 tons of canned products, valued at 478.6 million euros.
The upswing in exports of canned and semi-preserved fish and seafood in 2017 boosted the industry's production data, which expanded by 1% and reflected an improvement for three consecutive years. Growth was 1.3% in terms of value, due to higher tuna prices. In this context, domestic consumption remained balanced in terms of volume, although it increased in terms of value, due to higher demand for products with added value, a niche in which canned products can potentially exploit and which has notable scope for growth.
The canned fish and seafood sector currently has sales of 3.1 billion euros annually, of which 76.7% is from fishing and the remaining 23.3% is from aquaculture. Gross added value at basic prices exceeds 1.170 billion euros, thanks to companies like Grupo Calvo, Jealsa, Rianxeira, Frinsa, Garavilla, Salica, Hijos de Carlos Albo and IG Montes.
Global potential of canned fish and seafood
Spain's fishing fleet comprises close to 9,300 boats, with an average length of 10.9 meters. Around 96.8% of the fleet fishes on national fishing ground, and 1.1% in other areas of the European Union, while the remaining 2.1% fish in international waters. Further analysis reveals that 77.6% are small fishing boats, 10.3% are trawlers, 6.6% is seining, 4.2% is longline, 0.7% use gilnetting, and the remaining 0.6% use fixed gear.
Galicia has the largest fleet, accounting for 48.8% of all fishing in Spain. It's followed, at a distance, by Andalusia (16%), the Canary Islands (8.4%), Catalonia (8.2%), the Valencia region (6.3%), the Balearic Islands (3.7%), Asturias (2.8%), the Basque Country (2.2%), Murcia (1.9%), Cantabria (1.4%) and Ceuta (0.2%).
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and the Environment's (MAPAMA) food consumption database, Spanish households spend 13.3% of their food budget on fish and aquaculture products and their by-products. Per capita spending is slightly more than 200 euros per year, and consumption amounts to 26 kilos per person.
Consumption in terms of products is as follows: 45.2% is fresh fish; 17.4% is canned and pre-prepared fish and seafood; 15.4% is fresh seafood; 10.7% is frozen fish; 8.9% is frozen seafood and 2.4% is cooked seafood.
According to the Spanish National Statistics Institute, Spain produced 950,000 tons of fish and seafood by-products in 2017, with canned and pre-prepared fish accounting for the bulk (47%), followed by frozen fish and mollusks.
In terms of volume, canned tuna, which is the main product produced by the seafood and aquaculture canning industry, accounts for almost 68.65% of the total, followed by other kinds of canned items (8.27%), sardines and baby sardines (6.85%) and canned mackerel (4.25%).
In terms of value, canned tuna is the sector's primary product, accounting for 59.72% of the total, followed by mussels (7.35%) and sardines and baby sardines (6.68%).
Spain is a global leader in the production of fish and seafood. According to data available to date, Spain produces 2.2 million tons of fish and seafood and their by-products.
Domestic consumption of seafood is on the rise
Domestic consumption of seafood/mollusks/crustaceans by Spanish households amounted to 8 euros per kilo in 2017, up 2.8% year-on-year. Per capital consumption was around 7 kilos per person per year.
The price of canned fish and mollusks increased by 2% compared with the previous year, driven in particular by growth in hypermarkets, supermarkets and self-service locales. Discount stores are the most affordable channel, with an average price of 8.09 euros/kg, which is 1.25 euros/kg lower than the national average.
Canned fish/mollusks include the following products: sardines, tuna, horse mackerel/mackerel, mussels, cockles, clams, squid, octopus, anchovies, smoked salmon, smoked trout, other smoked products and other canned fish/mollusks.
Canned food purchases slip by 0.8% In contrast, they increased in terms of value by 1.2%. The average price was 9.34 euros/kg, up 2% year-on-year. Per capital consumption of canned products increased by 0.8%, with average consumption of 4.51 kilos per person per year. In terms of consumers, 22.2% of the volume is attributable to households comprising retirees, followed by parents with kids over 15, which accounted for 17%. Families with children ages 6 to 15 were the main consumers.
Consumption of canned fish and mollusks is highest in Murcia, the Canary Islands and Extremadura, and is lowest in La Rioja, Navarre, Cantabria and the Balearic Islands.
It remains to be seen how this product segment will perform in 2018, although initial data is positive. Indubitably, the best news for the industry was the euro's devaluation due to the stimulus measures recently implemented by the European Central Bank.
Quality and food safety
Manuel Vieites, the Secretary-General of Anfaco-Cecopesca—Spain's oldest trade organization (113 years old), which has 245 member companies—is clearly committed to internationalization and technological innovation to improve quality and food safety and to enhance sector companies' competitiveness. "All of these efforts aim to modernize canning factories," he has said.