By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 06 November, 2011
While some U.S. seafood professionals speculate that consumer will buy more fresh seafood as meat prices continue to rise, recent data shows that this may not be the case.
Overall fresh seafood sales in supermarkets rose only 0.6 percent for the 13 weeks ending 24 September, while seafood’s average retail prices spiked 10.3 percent during the same period, according to The Perishables Group in West Dundee, Ill. At the same time, fresh seafood volume dropped 8.8 percent for the 13 weeks versus the same period last year.
“The higher the price increase, the more the volume decline,” Steve Lutz, executive VP of The Perishables Group, told SeafoodSource. However, the price increases do not impact other proteins as sharply. Retail turkey prices rose 9.5 percent during the 13 weeks, but volume dropped 4.9 percent. Retail chicken prices increased 2.4 percent and volume rose 1.3 percent.
Lutz speculated that the meat category is not losing as much volume as seafood because of its lower price points. The average retail price for fresh seafood was USD 7.66 per pound for the 13 weeks versus USD 4.14 a pound for beef, USD 2.83 per pound for turkey and USD 2.04 for chicken.
Additionally, when retailers run promotions on seafood, the promotions are not as attractive, according to Lutz. “They aren’t doing discounts as deep as they used to,” he said.
At the same time, the core seafood consumer is still buying seafood, but trading down, according to consultants.
“People are still buying seafood, but instead of Alaskan kind crab legs, they may be buying shrimp,” said Craig Rosenblum, partner of Willard Bishop in Barrington, Ill.
“One week, salmon might be more expensive and they’ll trade down to tilapia. Or, if tilapia is expensive, they will trade down to catfish. I think you would see that [trading down within the same category] more than other departments,” said Lutz.
In fact, tilapia sales rose 13 percent during the 13 weeks, even though its average retail price jumped 13.3 percent over the same period last year. Simultaneously, salmon sales rose 11.6 percent for the 13 weeks, while its retail price rose 5.3 percent.