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Two consumer purchasing trends that will likely influence seafood sales in 2013 include the growth of private label foods and Americans cooking more at home.

According to a recent report from global market intelligence firm Mintel, nearly 30 percent of all food products launched between January and September 2012 were private label products, an increase of 4 percent compared to the same period for 2011. This trend dovetails with the move toward more consumers cooking at home.

“As Americans are presented with a wider variety of private label food offerings — and cheaper alternatives to purchasing the otherwise same quality goods — they will more easily be able to pursue interests in cooking at home, regardless of their respective household incomes,” said Gretchen Grabowski, leisure analyst for Mintel.

Notably, fish and seafood items make up 30.6 percent of total fish and seafood sales (including fresh, refrigerated, frozen, and shelf-stable seafood) in food, drug, and mass merchandiser stores for the 52 weeks ending 8 July 2012, according to Mintel research. In addition, 52 percent of consumers who bought fish agree that private label fish is just as good as brand name fish, according to Mintel.  “Moreover, 49 percent of them believe that private label fish is a good option to save money rather than not buying fish at all,” said Carla Dobre-Chastain, food analyst for Mintel.

Whether they are buying private label or branded fish, Americans are preparing seafood — and other foods — at home more. Twenty-six percent of consumers say they “love” cooking and 35 percent “like” cooking, versus only 9 percent who “really dislike” making meals at home. In addition, up to 20 percent of consumers describe their cooking skills as “advanced” and around 46 percent believe they have intermediate skills, according to recent Mintel research.

Still, many Americans worry about cooking seafood at home themselves. Seventeen percent of Americans do not eat fish at home because they don’t know how to prepare it. “Providing recipes or cooking tips in the seafood department or in the frozen food aisle could encourage customers to pick up a seafood item, as opposed to poultry or some other kind of protein,” Dobre-Chastain said.

Another challenge with cooking seafood at home is the fact that 70 percent of Americans who buy fish admit to eating the same type of fish, but 43 percent say they would like to try new species of fish or shellfish. “The discrepancy… likely illustrates the fact that, while consumers may have the willingness to prepare a variety of fish at home, many may not know how to cook certain types of fish and seafood,” Dobre-Chastain said. When they do not know how certain species of seafood taste, consumers will likely not buy fish that may go to waste, she added.

“Manufacturers and retailers must find ways to expose consumers to different types of fish and seafood, both to ease some of the existing hesitation, as well as to increase fish and seafood consumption frequency,” Dobre-Chastain said.

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