Media messages about sustainable seafood: how do media influencers affect consumer attitudes?

Project Number:



University of Adelaide

Principal Investigator:

Michelle Phillipov

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Communities, Environment, Industry


From television cooking shows to social media, an intensified media focus on food has increased public visibility of issues of food provenance and sustainability in recent years. This has profoundly changed the communications landscape in which Australian food industries operate. There is now increased scrutiny and criticism of food industry activities not just from the ‘usual suspects’ (such as environmental activists), but also from a range of new players: celebrity chefs, food bloggers, social media ‘clicktivists’, and other media influencers. On the issue of sustainable seafood, these influencers have often been successful in securing a greater share of media ‘voice’ than industry itself. This is concerning because influencers’ messages are not always aligned with industry claims or with Government sustainability assessments. We know from international research that food celebrities and food media can either encourage or deter seafood consumption depending on the message (Bowman & Stewart 2013), but we don’t yet know what the impact is of Australian media, and media influencers, on consumer purchasing intentions, their attitudes and beliefs regarding the sustainability of Australian seafood, and the social acceptability of the industry. Aligning with National Priority 1 and its focus on industry communications strategy, this project will examine media coverage of Australian domestic fisheries sectors to identify: the messages about sustainable seafood prominent in Australian media; the media influencers, strategies, and professional networks underpinning their circulation; and how these messages are understood and interpreted by consumers. This knowledge will be used to inform communication strategies that will ensure clearer sustainability messages, reduce consumer confusion, and improve consumer trust in the Australian seafood industry.


1. To identify the role and preferred mechanisms of media influencers in shaping media messages about the sustainability of Australian produced seafood and the Australian domestic seafood industry that are successful in achieving the greatest share of media ‘voice’, and to evaluate the impacts of this on consumer perceptions.

2. Contribute to the ongoing development of National Priority 1 Communications Strategy.

3. Offer best-practice strategies for dealing with the divergent messages from industry, and media influencers, and in doing so, boost the profile of the Australian seafood industry achievements in relation to sustainability initiatives.

How do celebrity chefs and other media influencers affect consumer attitudes about sustainable seafood?

Author(s):Michelle Phillipov
Date Published:August 2018
We have conducted a comprehensive media survey of key media texts across all major genres and platforms for the past 3 years (2015-2018) to identify: the major reported issues affecting seafood sustainability; the role of celebrity chefs and media influencers in this media coverage; and the effects of different media and communications strategies in contributing to ‘share of voice’ in key issues.