Report: COVID-19 presenting opportunity for retail seafood sales boost

It’s no secret that United States retailers face several challenges, but a new report revealed what could drive Americans to purchase more seafood, particularly during the COVID-10 pandemic.

With any report on seafood comes the commonly known, not-so-great news, and the FMI's (the Food Industry Association) report, the Power of Seafood, is no different: American seafood consumption lags far behind other major categories.  

Americans consume only 16 pounds of seafood per year, on average, compared to 402 pounds of vegetables, 252 pounds of fruit, 112 pounds of poultry, and 111 pounds of meat.

Plus, only 25 percent of shoppers are classified as frequent seafood consumers, or are eating seafood at least two times per week, as recommended by the USDA, FMI found in its 2020 consumer survey. However, that number does represent a slight increase from 21 percent in 2019.

Around 32 percent of consumers report eating seafood at least once a month, and are considered occasional seafood consumers.

“This means that 43 percent of adults are not even occasional seafood consumers. That is, these non-seafood consumers eat seafood less than once a month, rarely or never,” FMI said.

“There exists great potential to not only increase the household penetration of seafood among consumers, but also the frequency of consumption,” FMI added.

Compared to the household penetration for meat and produce, at nearly 100 percent, household penetration for seafood (fresh or frozen, excluding grocery) is only 76.4 percent according to research firm Information Resources Inc. (IRI).

Among the households who purchase some type of seafood, they only average 7.4 purchases of seafood per year. Household penetration for fresh seafood is less than one-half of households (40.7 percent), while household penetration for frozen seafood 63.8 percent.

Around a quarter of shoppers (26.7 percent) purchase fresh pre-packaged seafood from the self-service case, according to IRI. Among the households that purchase these types of seafood, they average 3.1 to 5.6 purchases of that type of seafood per year or less than one purchase every two months.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged many more Americans to buy both fresh and frozen seafood.

Frozen seafood sales surged 50.8 percent for the quarter ending 31 May 2020, according to Nielsen, while fresh seafood sales rose 26.3 percent, and grocery/ shelf-stable seafood surged 59.4 percent, according to Nielsen data.

Plus, seafood buyers represent a lucrative opportunity for retailers.

When fresh seafood is part of the shopper’s basket, the average amount spent by the household is USD 98 (EUR 83).

“This is almost three times the average basket size for groceries – USD 34.91 [EUR 30],” FMI said.

The secret to getting Americans to buy more seafood, according to FMI, varies – but price is always at the forefront or purchasing decisions.  

“Just over half of Americans who are seafood consumers said that price is an answer [to encourage them to purchase]. Some folks think seafood is a little bit pricier,” FMI Research Director Steven Markenson said during a webinar.

Of infrequent seafood consumers (which represent 31 percent of all seafood shoppers), 81 percent said a good sale or price would motivate them to buy seafood. Sampling was important to 75 percent, 67 percent rely on recommendations from family and friends, 66 percent said trying the species at a restaurant encourages them to buy seafood, and 59 percent said in-store cooking demos would likely encourage them to purchase.

A majority, 70 percent, of infrequent seafood shoppers are somewhat or very likely to buy processed or value-added fish sticks or crab cakes, while 53 percent said they would be somewhat or very likely to purchase partially or fully-prepared seafood from the grocery store, and 33 percent said they are somewhat or very likely to buy seafood as part of a meal kit.

Seafood shoppers are also seeking more Information – including how to prepare seafood and its nutritional benefits. Recipes and other information are “especially relevant in this era of cooking at home and eating at home. Ideas about ways to prepare are particularly relevant now,” Markenson said.

Information about the nutritional benefits of seafood is also particularly important, “as we are all trying to eat and stay healthy during these unprecedented times,” Markenson said.

Around a third of shoppers said they could use more recipes, 24 percent wanted information on how to prepare the seafood, and 18 percent said they would like information on nutritional benefits.

Photo courtesy of FMI - The Food Industry Association.  


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500