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American supermarkets benefitted from increased fresh seafood sales for the first nine months of 2013, led by crab, lobster and cod increases.

The total volume of crustaceans sold in grocery stores rose 16.2 percent, while sales increased 11.3 percent for the 52 weeks ending 28 September 2013, according to recent data from the Nielsen Perishables Group.

"Crab and lobster saw improvement because more retailers/stores carried crab and lobster, more items were carried and they sold more volume on promotion. The increased availability and lower prices enticed consumers," Sherry Frey, vice president of account services for Nielsen Perishables Group, told SeafoodSource.

Retailers heavily promoted crab and lobster, dropping their average retail price by 4 percent over the nine months.

Cooked and raw shrimp volume rose 2.4 percent, but dollar sales jumped 5.6 percent due to the higher prices on shrimp throughout the year. "Even though shrimp did see higher prices and less volume sold on promotion, more retailers carried more shrimp items last year, which helped drive overall sales," Frey said.

Finfish also realized a nice lift, with a 6.2 percent increase in volume and a 6.1 percent increase in sales during the nine months. "Part of the overall growth of seafood is due to the bounceback from the economy when people had left/opted out of the department," Frey said.

Cod volume soared 14.2 percent over the nine-month period, and sales rose 11.2 percent. Retailers dropped the average retail price on cod by 2.6 percent and increased promotions 9.3 percent, according to Nielsen.

Tilapia sales rose 6.6 percent and volume increased by 8.5 percent. Catfish sales increased by 3.4 percent but volume rose 8.1 percent. Fresh salmon was also a success story in 2013 with a 6.5 percent increase in sales and a 4.9 percent increase in volume.

Prepared fish continued to be popular with grocery shoppers, realizing a 9.7 percent lift in sales and an 8 percent increase in volume for the 52 weeks ending 28 September.

"Across the store, we continue to see interest in semi-or fully-prepared items; we even see growth in prepared seafood items in the deli department," Frey said. "This is driven by consumer interest in convenient food options to help save time and also to ease cooking skill concerns."

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