Market and Trade Data
More Than a Fish Story:
France a Swelling Market for U.S. Seafood Suppliers
By Marie-Cécile Hénard
See also . . .
FAS Report FR6054
Fish open market
Photo courtesy of FAS Office of
Agricultural Affairs, Paris, France
a major import market for seafood because demand
significantly and consistently exceeds domestic supply.
In calendar 2006, French fish product imports (including
fish oils and animal feed) totaled $5.03 billion, while
exports were $1.61 billion, for a seafood trade deficit
of $3.42 billion, up 15 percent from 2005. The United
States, with a 4.7-percent market share, was France’s
seventh largest supplier in 2006, after the United
Kingdom, Norway, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, and
Consumers and Competitors
French annual per capita consumption of seafood is 35.1
kg (1 kilogram = 2.2046 pounds), live weight equivalent.
French seafood consumption totaled 844,982 metric tons
in 2005, of which 71 percent was consumed in households
and 29 percent in the HRI (hotel, restaurant, and
Salmon is French consumers’ favorite finfish and is
consumed fresh, frozen, and smoked. As France has one of
the highest salmon consumption rates in Europe and
marginal production, it relies on imports for almost all
largest salmon suppliers are Norway (with a 52-percent
market share in 2006) and the United Kingdom (22
percent). The U.S. share was 3.5 percent last year,
mostly in the form of frozen fillets for the HRI sector.
Groundfish fillets (cod, haddock, pollock, whiting,
and hake): These varieties are also popular in the
French retail and HRI sectors, in whole, cuts, fresh,
frozen, and breaded formats.
In 2006, the
United States was France’s second largest supplier of
frozen fillets of Alaska pollock, with 28 percent market
share, after China (40 percent market share). Chinese
and Russian exports to France increased significantly in
2006, more than the United States, mainly because of
their lower supplies.
Source of Market Assistance and Information
The FAS Office of Agricultural Affairs in
Paris, France, can help U.S. suppliers
interested in this market. For assistance,
contact the office at: E-mail:
For more information on the French market
for U.S. fish and seafood, visit the
Trade Show Key to Marketing U.S. Seafood
The European Seafood Exposition, held
annually in Brussels, Belgium, is Europe’s
leading seafood show. For information on
this show, visit:
Lobster: France’s HRI sector provides most of the
demand for lobster. A luxury product not often prepared
at home, it is principally consumed in December during
the holiday season. The United States is France’s
largest supplier of lobster, with Canada the closest
competitor. U.S. lobster is mainly imported fresh, while
Canadian lobster is mainly frozen.
France is the largest market for scallops in Europe.
Although scallops are traditionally a festive product
principally consumed in December, the increasing
availability of frozen products is making consumption
more consistent throughout the year. The market is
segmented as follows:
small-grade frozen products for processing,
products with or without roe for food service,
products for the retail sector consisting mainly of
supermarkets and frozen food centers (these are a
unique concept of retail stores selling only frozen
foods from entrée/hors d’oeuvre to desserts,
including fish and seafood), and
products for restaurants and vendors at open street
markets or specialized seafood shops.
States has been France’s largest supplier of scallops
for the past few years. In 2006, the U.S. market share
was the highest recorded, at almost 21 percent. Most
U.S. scallops exports to France are frozen, but
quantities of fresh scallops have increased in the past
few years, reaching 37 percent of U.S. scallop shipments
in 2006. Argentina is the leading U.S. competitor, with
a 17-percent market share in 2006.
A paste made of white fish such as hake or pollock and
processed in other products, surimi is popular in the
form of sticks, snacks, and imitation crabmeat. In 2005,
French surimi consumption was 97 percent fresh products
and 3 percent frozen products. Surimi sticks continued
to hold 80 percent of the market. The snacking market
segment experienced the highest increase in value.
States remained by far France’s largest supplier of
surimi base in 2006, with 58 percent of the market.
Nevertheless, U.S. exports declined due to higher prices
of Alaska Pollock, making U.S. surimi base more
expensive than Chilean products.
Marie-Cécile Hénard is an agricultural specialist with
the FAS Office of Agricultural Affairs, Paris, France.