By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 14 March, 2013
Consumers around the global continue to purchase fresh foods – including seafood — despite economic pressures, according to a new Nielsen survey.
“Fresh foods carry the health halo with them, versus processed foods. It doesn’t matter what country you go to: fresh foods will always have those attributes,” Steve Lutz, Nielsen Perishables Group executive VP of told SeafoodSource.
In the Asia-Pacific region, fresh foods make up 60 percent of shoppers’ grocery shopping budgets and in Europe, fresh foods account for 53 percent of shoppers’ budgets, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Fresh Foods report. In the U.S. and Latin America, fresh foods account for much less of shoppers’ baskets: 30 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
“In the U.S., consumers shop less frequently [than in Asia and Europe]. Because they are willing to drive further and make fewer shopping trips, those things work against fresh,” Lutz said. At the same time, fresh seafood sales are on the rise in the U.S. While beef, poultry, and pork volume all fell in 2012, fresh seafood volume rose 2.5 percent, according to Nielsen.
According to the study, when buying fresh seafood, North American shoppers look for a good value first, followed by fresh selection and convenience.
Even though overall fresh seafood prices remained fairly stable in the past year, North American shoppers perceived that seafood was a better value, particularly compared to the rising costs of beef and poultry, according to Lutz.
“It is really about the value they [shoppers] placed on a specific product. For example, lobster is still a very expensive seafood product, but sales were driven down because of supply this year. Even if lobster is USD 10 a pound, that is perceived as a value, compared to its regular price,” Lutz said.
While North American shoppers are seeking value, shoppers in the Middle East/ Africa region and in Latin America said fresh selection is most important to them, according to the survey. Europeans say that a good value is the most important attribute when buying fresh seafood, followed by fresh selection and convenience.
Even though fresh seafood sales rose in the U.S. last year, fresh seafood accounts for only five percent of stores’ total sales, according to Nielsen. Lutz believes that fresh seafood purchases lag behind other proteins because shoppers require much more customer service than other protein categories.
“Self-serve just does not touch the consumer…in the same way that beef and chicken does because consumers know the cuts and the selection in those departments. The input from the behind-the-counter person in a supermarket or the person running the fish shop is not only important for capturing sales, but for building consumer confidence and repeat purchases,” Lutz said.