Custódio, M. et al. (including Villasante, S.) (2021). Marine Policy
Consumers today demand healthier and more sustainable seafood products that are tasty and convenient. Plant-based foods have been particularly sought for and the development of novel products in this category is expanding. Halophytes are emerging as a new category of marine vegetables with distinct organoleptic characteristics and functional properties. In Portugal, the promotion of halophytes as salt alternatives is already advocated up to the policy level but halophyte-based products are still uncommon. Consumers are normally skeptical towards new foods and acquiring consumer insights through surveys has proven invaluable to inform marketing strategies that positively impact consumer acceptability. The objectives of this study were to examine consumers’ perspective and willingness-to-pay (WTP) for fresh-cut halophyte vegetables and collect data for consumer segmentation to inform future marketing initiatives to introduce halophytes. Based on 268 in-person interviews at point-of-purchase locations in Aveiro, Portugal, the results showed that halophytes are still alien to the majority of consumers. A package with 50 g of fresh-cut Salicornia was used to assess consumer preferences and average WTP was 2.10 €. Female respondents reported higher WTP and positive vegetable-intake diversification seems to predict higher WTP as well. Using the Food-Related Lifestyle instrument and cluster analysis, three consumer segments were identified (‘adventurous’, ‘conservative’, and ‘careless’ consumers) and the ‘adventurous consumer’ is arguably the most interesting segment to introduce edible halophytes. The findings of this study can inform consumer-based pricing and marketing strategies towards a successful introduction of these novel marine vegetables to Portuguese consumers and encourage similar approaches elsewhere.