Seafood industry’s 2021 outlook brighter as consumers focus on health

Published on
December 24, 2020

Seafood suppliers will be one of the primary beneficiaries of consumers’ surging interest in eating healthier foods in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled consumers’ desire to eat healthy, immune-boosting foods and, as lockdowns continue, they are buying and cooking more seafood at home, according to Robyn Carter, founder and CEO of Jump Rope Innovation, a trends and innovation consultancy.

Foods that boost physical and mental health show the most potential for growth next year, Carter said during a Food Institute webinar, “What’s Ahead in 2021?”

The type of products that will benefit from this trend the most include plant-forward, allergy-free, CBD-infused, and fermented foods, as well as seafood, Carter said.

“Look for opportunities to address immune boosters, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory foods,” Carter said.

Seafood’s strong linkage to omega-3s in consumers’ minds is a big potential marketing point, Carter said.

“For years, consumers have received the message that seafood is a heart-healthy alternative, and, with a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, it's also good for brain health, particularly for memory,” Carter told SeafoodSource. “Brain health is an emerging concern among consumers of all ages for many reasons – one of which is the sharp increase in Alzheimer's disease … So we do expect to see more conversation around fish and brain health.”

Frozen and canned seafood products offer benefits that are particularly relevant during the pandemic, according to Carter.

“Namely, they can be kept on hand, helping consumers to insulate themselves against the empty shelves and supply chain issues many have experienced during COVID,” Carter said.

Canned fish is also an affordable seafood option.

“We know that this will continue to be a major consideration for consumers as we move through the current recession,” Carter said.

At the same time, the growing assortment of higher-end canned and jarred tunas also offer consumers “more variety, transparency, and a great-quality product that can enable them (or their kids) to make a quick and delicious lunch while working from home,” Carter added.

Seafood fits into both consumers’ growing interest in healthy foods as well as the shift to consuming more proteins, 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink told SeafoodSource.

Fish was included in Datassential’s top 10 list of foods that consumers associate most with immunity, along with superfruits, citrus fruits, broccoli, dark leafy greens, and nuts, Roerink pointed out.

“In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, we saw a shift to more conservative eating patterns and an inclination for comfort foods. But as the pandemic wore on, we saw renewed focus on health and wellness with a particular interest in immunity,” Roerink said.

Roerink said she believes that consumers’ shift to buying seafood during the pandemic will benefit the industry for several years.

“I suspect we’re going to see a very strong seafood performance in 2021. We know more people have been buying it and buying it more frequently,” Roerink said. “That means the seafood industry will benefit from an increased seafood IQ and that will benefit sales for months, years – if not generations – to come.”

In addition to heath and wellness benefits, Americans will also be seeking foods that offer value, quality, and transparency, according to Carter. But value does not necessarily mean they are seeking the lowest-priced item.

“Consumers are looking for brands that offer value in a variety of ways. They are investing in quality over quantity,” she said. “It’s about perceived quality and reliability. In a growing recession, consumers can’t afford to make a mistake. They want to make sure it [the product] is versatile and convenient, so, for example, their kids can make their lunch while the parents work at home."

Buying products that offer transparency and sustainability will also continue to be a priority for American shoppers.

“It’s very important for consumers to see transparency from brands – that brands are being open about their sourcing, carbon footprint, and hiring and labor practices,” Carter said.

Photo courtesy of Robyn Carter

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