Dealing with fresh fish shortages in winter


Chuck Anderson

Published on
January 17, 2011

Fish demand has been strong since the first of the year, as health- and diet-minded customers increase seafood consumption in January. As a result, many seafood wholesalers and distributors can’t find enough fish to supply the increased retail and restaurant demand. This happens most years, and this year is no different. Many boats come in and stay in port for Christmas through New Year’s, so the year always starts out with light supplies. Then, if severe weather hits, availability of fresh fish gets even tighter. Below are some tips for how retail seafood managers can deal with shortages of fresh fish when more customers are looking for it.

1. Be prepared to have fewer varieties of fresh fish this time of year and expand fish variety in the frozen fish case. 

• Consider additional and different size bags of tilapia or additional salmon SKUs. Ready-to-cook seafood is also popular as many new or infrequent seafood customers are looking for seafood options.

2. Expand facings of the best-selling frozen items to keep in stock and encourage impulse sales.  

• Have more variety and quantity of thaw and sell seafood available to keep the fresh fish case stocked.

• Utilize more good quality previously frozen (PF) fish varieties in the fresh fish case. The quality of PF cod, flounder and haddock is outstanding. PF fish look like fresh fish in the case to customers and are more appealing than thawing frozen fillets out at store level. Obviously, PF fish must be labeled as previously frozen or thawed.

3. Expand varieties of fresh farmed seafood.   

• Instead of just two cuts of farmed salmon, four or more may be the way to go. An example is to offer skin-on salmon fillet, skinless E-trim salmon fillets, salmon steaks, boneless salmon steaks, salmon roasts, exact weight salmon portions, marinated/seasoned salmon portions and stuffed salmon.

• Use all of the fresh wild fish species that are available such as mahimahi, haddock and Alaskan cod.

• The total number of varieties available will likely be fewer in the fresh seafood case, so expand displays of the fish that is on hand. Less fish on hand is no excuse for empty displays or holes in the retail case display. Be aggressive with what is available.

4. Teach seafood clerks to advise customers on buying and preparing PF fish and farm-raised fresh fish.  

• These are the best quality options when fresh wild fish is limited or not available.

• Have more recipes available as sales will increase for items such as tilapia, salmon, shrimp and PF flounder.

• Offer new recipe suggestions geared toward the species that are available now.  

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