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The economic crisis hasn’t been kind to Europe’s retail industry. A declining grocery market, forged by a record drop in consumers’ disposable incomes, has chipped away at the bottom lines of many supermarkets. As the most expensive protein, seafood has been in a vulnerable position throughout the recession, as households switch to less expensive options. And yet there is new cause for optimism in the market.

Edward Garner, director of international consumer research group Kantar Worldpanel, told delegates at the Value Added Seafood 2012 conference, held in London at the end of September, that while a sobering air of austerity remains, there is “some positive bouncing back” in the U.K. chilled fish market after almost six years of stagnation.

The growth of chilled fish [fresh, sometimes previously frozen] sales started to slow in 2006, two years ahead of the economic crisis, as a result of the high prices being asked by retailers. At the same time, frozen fish sales started to creep up, for the first time in many years, while sales of chicken — the cheapest protein on the market —soared.

Value-added products, sales of which have grown 13.5 percent year-on-year, are driving chilled seafood’s growth. Several factors have contributed to this welcome resurgence, including a greater emphasis on customer convenience and value, while inflation has fallen from last year to improve the economic backdrop.

In volume terms, the frozen fish category remains larger than chilled, but because of the retail prices paid for the latter—an average of GBP 10 (EUR 12.46, USD 16.10) per kilogram—compared with frozen at GBP 6 (EUR 7.48, USD 9.66) per kilogram, chilled is the dominant market. It should be noted the average price of chilled fish has grown 5 percent year-on-year.

Overall, chilled fish sales have grown at 6.8 percent this year, generating an additional GBP 89.4 million (EUR 111.4 million, USD 144 million) in a sector that is now valued at GBP 1.4 billion (EUR 1.7 billion, USD 2.3 billion), which is almost double that of frozen fish at GBP 760 million (EUR 947.3 million, USD 1.2 billion).

Click here to read the full story which ran in the November issue of SeaFood Business > 

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