ASMI report finds COVID-19 pandemic boosted seafood consumption

A new report sponsored by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) showed that at-home seafood consumption has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many consumers intentionally moving away from red meat to seafood as a healthier form a protein.

The report – put together by Datassential for ASMI – found that 26 percent of consumers bought seafood for the first time during the pandemic, while 35 percent are cooking more seafood than they did previous to the pandemic, with around 60 of general consumers maintaining their pre-pandemic levels of seafood consumption.

“COVID-19 has dramatically increased the amount of seafood being consumed at home, with seafood consumers enjoying seafood once a week. Seafood consumers are actively limiting their consumption of red meat and most have increased their seafood consumption during the pandemic or plan to in 2021,” ASMI Domestic Marketing Director Megan Rider told SeafoodSource.

Not only are consumers choosing seafood, many have a preference for seafood caught in the Americas, with 1 in 5 consumers citing wild-caught seafood from Alaska as their specific preference.

“The Alaska name is a strong purchase driver, with 73 percent of affluent and 66 percent of general consumers more likely to purchase seafood when included (and this number is even higher when the Alaska Seafood logo is included),” the Datassential report stated. “The Alaska Seafood logo improves perceptions of quality across the store, with 82 percent of consumers agreeing that seeing Alaska seafood means the store has high quality seafood. Fifteen percent of shoppers are willing to pay significantly more for seafood when accompanied by the Alaska name, and 57 percent are willing to pay slightly more.”

Topping the list of in-demand species, Rider said, is Alaska salmon, from either the freezer or fresh counter.

“The most popular seafood being consumed at home is fresh or frozen salmon. With 99 percent of the wild salmon in the U.S. harvested in Alaskan waters, consumers can trust they are choosing sustainable salmon when they buy Alaska,” Rider said.

She added that Datassential’s report found affluent consumers – college graduates with a household income above USD 100,000 (EUR 84,000) – were more likely to choose wild caught salmon, as well other Alaska species like halibut, scallops, sole, and prawns. General consumers – those with a household income below USD 100,000 (EUR 84,000) – were more likely to buy frozen or canned fish. 

“However, both consumer groups are very open to frozen formats, some mentioning that during the pandemic they appreciated having a seafood option that they could buy in advance,” Rider said.

Datassential’s report also found that 80 percent of affluent consumers and 61 percent of general consumers said they chose seafood because it was healthier than other proteins.

“When we look at consumption trends, the data found that 48 percent of consumers are actively trying to increase their consumption of fish and seafood whereas only 23 percent say the same for beef. More interestingly, when you look at decreased consumption trends, 26 percent of consumers are actively trying to decrease their intake of beef compared to only 7 percent for seafood and fish,” Rider said.

Rider added that seafood is now the second preferred protein after chicken.

“We believe that this shift is taking place because consumers understand the extraordinary health benefits behind seafood and also prefer the taste of the protein as well,” Rider said.

She pointed to the fact that wild caught seafood is not just a strong source of heart-healthy proteins, but is also packed with vitamins, minerals, and oils.

“Many species of Alaska seafood are the highest sources of naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA which are not found in most other foods. Additionally, Alaska seafood provides essential vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, selenium, zinc, glutamine, calcium and iron, which makes seafood a marquee choice for protein,” Rider said.

As restaurants open again and foodservice seafood consumption returns, ASMI is hoping consumers will also maintain pandemic-level home seafood consumption. Rider said ASMI’s promotions and marketing moving forward will focus maintaining and expanding the home consumption trend.

“Through targeted ecommerce partnerships, easy and social-friendly recipe ideas, retailer promotions, foodservice innovation and offerings, and collaborating with chefs and experts, our focus is on retaining and connecting these new and experimenting seafood consumers to Alaska seafood to convert them to lifelong customers,” Rider said.  

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