Getting the right price for salmon
By Mike Urch, SeafoodSource contributing editor
29 December, 2012
As supermarket shelves were groaning under the weight of festive fare last week, smoked salmon was noticeably prominent. It has been said that in some countries more smoked salmon is sold in the run up to Christmas than during the rest of the year put together.
Certainly smoked salmon is now regarded as part of the Christmas menu in the U.K. At the beginning of this month, the Guardian included it alongside sprouts, probably the most traditional Christmas vegetable, as a key component of the festive meal.
Not that long ago, smoked salmon was a luxury product too expensive for all but the very rich, but in recent years it has become much more affordable. It is the advent of farming, of course, which has brought about the change as the production of large volumes of fish has seen prices decline.
However, it is the question of price that has become the subject of much debate during the past year. In fact, the Guardian highlighted the rising cost of smoked salmon as one of the reasons why the main Christmas meal would be more expensive this year.
The price of smoked salmon in the UK was reported to have risen by 26 percent since the start of the economic downturn in 2008. However, this increase is being disputed in some quarters. Aquaculture consultant, Callander McDowell, monitors salmon prices on a regular basis. It states that in Asda and Waitrose stores at the beginning of the month, smoked salmon was being offered for sale at the same, or a cheaper, price than five years ago.
The company did say that in other supermarkets the price of smoked salmon had increased, but by less than 26 percent. It also pointed out that its prices had been recorded before the Christmas promotions when, for example, Marks and Spencer was offering one third off the prices of long packs of two varieties of sliced smoked Scottish salmon.
The price at which farmed salmon was being sold in Europe and the U.S., occupied quite a number of column inches in the trade press during the past year. Not surprisingly sales increased when prices had been slashed in various supermarket promotions, even being sold at less than the price of pangasius in a French supermarket at one time in the year. However, when prices returned to ‘normal’ levels, customers switched to other food products.
It is a pity when price becomes the only factor in motivating sales. Salmon is one of the most popular species of fish, if not the most popular in some countries. Even for non-fish lovers, the color, texture and taste are almost universally liked; there is no smell and the bones are generally big enough to avoid even when they haven’t been removed during processing.
The fish is also very versatile and can be incorporated into any number of dishes. In some supermarkets value-added salmon products far surpass those incorporating other fish species.
So what can be done, apart from price discounting, to stimulate demand and, perhaps more importantly for producers, to escape from the boom and bust cycle when prices rise and then crash. According to Martin Jaffa of Callander McDowell, there should be more innovation ‘to offer consumers something different at a time when special treats can enliven the limitations of the current economic climate.’
Certainly this would be a more profitable option for producers. However, the salmon industry may not need to go down this route. Gorjan Nikolik of Rabobank International is reported to have said that 2013 will be a turning point as he expects prices to rise next year. Furthermore, he also suggested that the price of salmon may never slump again.
This is a bold prediction, indeed, and it should be treated with a great deal of caution. Perhaps it would be more sensible to concentrate on making salmon something that consumers really want to buy without always looking first at the price.
29 December, 2012