Chilled fish category rises above the supermarket price war

Published on
April 8, 2016

The United Kingdom’s ongoing supermarket price war has not hindered the chilled seafood category from growing its market share value considerably in the past year, with consumers buying more of these products and paying more for them than they were a year ago.

In U.K. retail, chilled products account for more than 63 percent of seafood transactions, an increase of 18.5 percent, and according to the latest Nielsen ScanTrack data published by Seafish, sales of these products totaled GBP 1.97 billion (USD 2.8 billion, EUR 2.4 billion) for the 12 months ending 27 February 2016, an increase of 1.7 percent. These upswings were despite the total volume and value of seafood sold in all categories both falling slightly to 329,935 metric tons (MT) and GBP 3.1 billion (USD 4.4 billion, EUR 3.9 billion).

During the 12-month period, U.K. shoppers bought 618,572 chilled seafood products, an increase of 1.4 percent year-on-year. They also paid an average price of GBP 13.08 (USD 18.50, EUR 16.26) per kg within the category, a slight increase of 0.5 percent.

In terms of the species sold, the chilled segment continued to be dominated by salmon, with sales totaling GBP 764.2 million (USD 1.1 billion, EUR 950.1 million), followed by cod with GBP 175 million (USD 247.5 million, EUR 217.6 million) and warmwater shrimp with GBP 168.1 million (USD 237.7 million, EUR 209 million). Salmon and shrimp achieved sales growth rates of 2.8 percent and 10.2 percent respectively, while the total value of cod sales dropped 1.2 percent.

The products showing the biggest growth in chilled last year were lobster, sea bass and sea bream with year-on-year sales increases of 22.2 percent, 17 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively. The biggest decline was seen in pollock with sales falling 50.2 percent to GBP 7.9 million (USD 11.2 million, EUR 9.8 million).

Meanwhile, total frozen and ambient achieved sales values of GBP 688.4 million (USD 973.6 million, EUR 855.8 million) and GBP 450.2 million (USD 636.7 million, EUR 559.6 million), respectively. These totals were down 0.7 percent and 6.8 percent year-on-year. In volume terms, frozen sales dropped 3.5 percent to 106,376 MT, while the ambient total grew by 0.3 percent to 72,826 MT.

The average prices paid in frozen and ambient in the last 12 months were GBP 6.49 (USD 9.13, EUR 8.01) and GBP 6.18 (USD 8.69, EUR 7.63) per kg, respectively.

It should be noted that Nielsen’s figures don’t include discounters’ sales and that the German companies Aldi and Lidl now have a combined 10.4 percent share of the U.K. grocery market, up from 9 percent a year ago.

According to the latest grocery share figures from Kantar Worldpanel, Aldi is the country’s sixth largest supermarket chain with a record six percent of the market, putting it very closely behind fifth-placed The Co-operative. Its sales increased by 14.4 percent in the 12-week period ending 27 March 2016.

Lidl, meanwhile, retained its standing as the country’s fastest growing supermarket, increasing its sales by 17.7 percent during the same period and capturing 4.4 percent of the market. It is the market’s eighth largest supermarket chain.

According to Kantar, U.K. supermarket sales during the 12-week period totaled 25.6 billion (USD 36.2 billion, EUR 31.8 billion), an increase of 1.1 percent year-on-year and the fastest growth seen in 12 months. At the same time, U.K. shoppers continue to benefit from falling grocery prices, with like-for-like prices 1.5 percent lower than a year ago.

“While saving money on the basics, consumers are not averse to treating themselves. Premium own label sales grew by 6.6 percent in the past 12 weeks, well ahead of the overall grocery market. Aldi and Lidl are leading the way, growing their premium lines more than twice as quickly as the rest of their ranges, but we’ve seen this across the retail spectrum – from Morrisons and The Co-operative to the likes of Waitrose, whose forthcoming launch of Waitrose 1 is the latest attempt by a traditional grocer to reclaim sales from the discounters,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel.

Launched this month and to eventually include 800 products, Waitrose 1 is the retailer’s first premium food range.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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