Battered fish is bright spot in UK grocery fish sales

Published on
April 24, 2018

Battered and breaded fish product results were a major bright spot in a report on chilled seafood sales at retail outlets in the United Kingdom, which have seen their overall seafood sales dampened by higher prices in recent months.

Overall chilled fish sales rose only 0.2 percent to EUR 437.4 million (USD 534.4 million) for the 12 weeks ending 25 March, while total volume dropped 2.9 percent to 37,000 tons for the quarter, according to Kantar Worldpanel.  

However, battered seafood sales for the quarter soared 49.4 percent to reach EUR 6.8 million (USD 8.3 million) while volume rose 42.6 percent. Likewise, breaded seafood sales grew 13.4 percent to EUR 31.5 million (USD 38.5 million) while volume rose 8.2 percent.

“The base of battered and breaded growth is coming from more shoppers, making more trips,” Nathan Ward, consumer specialist at Kantar Worldpanel, told SeafoodSource. 

However, shoppers made 3.8 million fewer trips that contained chilled seafood during the quarter, “as shoppers move the components of their meals into different categories,” Ward said.

Total chilled seafood sales are falling because “chilled seafood has the highest price of  all the seafood sectors and shoppers are looking to reduce spend,” Richard Watson, market insight analyst for U.K. trade organization Seafish, told SeafoodSource. 

Kantar Worldpanel found an average price increase of 3.2 percent across all fresh seafood categories during the quarter. Salmon is the primary species suffering from inflation, with prices up 4.8 percent.

“This is driven by all sectors in fresh fish, but natural, smoked, battered, and breaded are all seeing price rises ahead of the market,” Ward said.

At the same time, shoppers are looking for feel-good, filling treats, leading to the hike in breaded and battered sales, and retailers are meeting that higher demand for more breaded and battered products with innovative offerings, Ward said. Waitrose , for example, is selling its own brand of Lemon Sole Goujons in Cruncy Breadcrumbs and one of Tesco’s new chilled offerings is its own brand Breaded Chunky Cod Fillets.

On the frozen side, Sainsburgy is selling Spanish-style Cod, Prawn and Chorizo Croquetas made by Whitby; Lidl is featuring Lightly Dusted Ocean Trader MSC Certfied Yellowfin Sole Fillets; Asda is touting its Smart Price Breaded Scampi Fish Bites; and Marks and Spencer is doing well with its “Made Without Wheat” range of products, which includes breaded cod fillets.

Haddock and cod are the key species driving this growth in breaded and battered seafood, according to Ward. Also helping to spur demand for breaded and battered sales is grocers’ increased advertising and promotions. Promotional volumes of chilled battered seafood items jumped 146 percent during the most recent quarter, while breaded seafood promotional volumes rose 34 percent.

Meanwhile, shellfish is taking the hardest sales hit of all of the chilled seafood categories. Shellfish sales dropped 11.9 percent to EUR 46.2 million (USD 56.4 million) during the quarter, while volume dropped 12.7 percent. 

“Prices are up and promotional volumes are down 17 percent, driving shoppers to make different decisions in the category,” Ward said. “Prawns are key to this category, and have made the largest contribution to the volume decline, with volume [also] down 17 percent.” 

Contributing Editor

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