ith consumers’ purchasing
trends increasingly reflecting
their desire to lead healthier
lifestyles, the fresh department
is a vital driver of sales growth. Yet seafood
sales tend to lag those of other fresh categories, such as salad and vegetables.
For many retailers, the six-week Lenten
period between Ash Wednesday and Easter
provides an essential boost in seafood sales,
because many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays. Last year, U.S. retailers
generated a whopping $1 billion in seafood
sales during Lent alone (seven weeks ending
April 15, 2017), according to New York-based
market research firm Nielsen.
But outside of the Lenten season, seafood
sales slump, and of the five areas of the fresh
food department, seafood has the lowest
household penetration, at 54%, compared
to meat (98%), deli (99%), produce (99%)
and bakery (99%).
Despite this, seafood sales are up this
year: Dollar sales increased 3.4% in the 52
weeks ending Feb. 24, 2018 ( 10 days into
Lent), according to Nielsen data. (Read
more about seafood on p. 22.) However, a
heaping portion of that growth can likely be
attributed to the 4.5% increase in average
retail price during that time, because volume
sales were down 1.1% over the same period.
Sustainable Seafood Sparks Sales
Although overall seafood sales are somewhat
flat, certain fresh seafood options, including
shrimp, scallops and flounder, are significantly
outpacing their performance in dollar and volume sales compared to a year ago. But variety
in the seafood category expands beyond these
three popular options, and according to Nielsen research, nearly 20% of U.S. consumers
say they want to add more fish to their diets.
However, consumers have also expressed
concerns about seafood quality and freshness,
while other shoppers are unsure about cooking
techniques and methods of preparation, which
have caused barriers to purchase.
Sustainability also factors heavily in shoppers’ purchasing decisions, because consumers increasingly seek products that are
responsibly sourced. Sales of seafood with sustainability claims increased 3% over the past
year, while sales of seafood with Marine Stewardship Council labeling grew 27% and sales
of seafood with Sustainable Dishing labeling
grew 30%, according to Nielsen.
Retailers have an opportunity to educate
shoppers about freshness, sustainability
and preparation, as well as use methods that
have effectively boosted growth in other
fresh departments, such as the deli-prepared
Retailers Angle to Lure
Shoppers to Seafood
Consumers’ desire for more fish in their diets has created an
opportunity to boost sales through promotions and education.
Fresh Food: Penetration and Shopping Frequency
in Fresh Seafood
For the 52 weeks ending Feb. 24, 2018
Purchase frequency (# per year)