Seafood promoted for Lent

While volume declined among U.S. retailers’ fresh meat and seafood departments in 2011, Nielsen Perishables Group executives see a bright future for fresh food sales across all types of retail outlets.

During this week’s “Fresh Ideas For Growth,” executives with the newly formed Nielsen Perishables Group shared data and consumer trends designed to help boost sales of seafood and other perishables.

Seafood volume fell 5 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, according to Nielsen Perishables Group’s FreshFacts data, while sales rose 2 percent and prices spiked 7 percent. The fresh meat department also witnessed a 7 percent sales increase and a 2 percent drop in volume, while produce prices rose 5 percent and the category’s volume slipped 1 percent. Only the deli and bakery departments grew in volume in 2011, despite a 3 percent price increase in both categories.

However, fresh foods are gaining in share of total store sales, compared to center store — perishables account for 30 percent of grocery store volume, up 3 percent since 2006, according to Nielsen Perishables Group. Fresh food sales account for USD 216 billion annually in all retail outlets. Nielsen executives see only growth for fresh sales in the future, if retailers merchandise their fresh offerings according to shoppers’ new desires.

“Consumers are looking for more restaurant-quality meals at home and are developing more sophisticated global palates. We are also seeing a lot more focus on production and processing methods,” said Jeff Gregori, VP of consumer and shopper analytics for Nielsen. For example, BJs Wholesale Club recently announced that it is striving to source from seafood suppliers that have met or are on track to meet certain sustainable standards by 2014. “Ten years ago, you weren’t hearing about [distinctions] like this,” said Gregori.

Fresh departments can also drive large and profitable shopping baskets. Shoppers with seafood in their baskets spend an average of USD 74 per trip, and those with meat items in their baskets spend an average of USD 70 per trip.

“Consumers choose their meat or seafood first, and then create their meals around that,” said Sherry Frey, VP of account services for Nielsen Perishables Group.

Retailers can also benefit by merchandising their fresh offerings to two large segments of the population that Nielsen Perishables Group identified — “gourmet foodies” (18 percent of shoppers) and “young family cooks” (31 percent). Young family cooks want to cook more, but don’t have the time. They likely have younger children, and are shopping for prepared and ready-to-cook items.

Gourmet foodies, who earn USD 100,000 on average, are very knowledgablle on meat cuts and spices. They love new recipes and make an average of 14 recipes per month.

“Make the store easier to shop for gourmet foodies, who spend 13 percent more on fresh meat and seafood, pasta, and wine,” said Gregori.

Ready-to-eat seafood items continue to perform well. And in grocery stores’ deli departments, sushi volume rose 15.5 percent in 2011 versus 2010.

“Consumers are willing to pay for convenience in meat and seafood departments,” said Frey.

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