Despite Christmas boost, US seafood sales declined in December

Seafood for sale in a U.S. supermarket.

Seafood sales declined in December 2022 in the U.S., even with a boost from holiday-season splurging and a drop in inflation.

Fresh seafood sales through U.S. retail channels reached USD 522 million (EUR 486 million) in December, including a jump in sales from USD 103 million (EUR 96 million) during the first week of December to USD 181 million (USD 168 million) the week of 25 December, according to new data from IRI and 210 Analytics. However, Christmas week sales were still down 5.4 percent by value and 1.8 percent by volume year-over-year, while volume dropped 1.8 percent year-over-year.

“Seafood is making it onto the holiday menus of some Americans,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink told SeafoodSource.

Inflation continues to impact consumer purchases, as frozen seafood unit sales dropped 8.3 percent in December and fresh unit sales declined 5.7 percent.

“Frozen seafood sales continued to outperform fresh in December. While dollars were down for both, the decline was less for frozen, resulting in higher sales of USD 590 million [EUR 549 million],” Roerink said.

Frozen and fresh seafood prices fell 2.6 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. Conversely, shelf-stable seafood prices rose 10.1 percent to an average of USD 5.62 (EUR 5.23) per pound in December.

Despite the increase in shelf-stable prices in December, ambient seafood sales jumped 8.9 percent, while frozen seafood sales fell 3.8 percent and fresh seafood sales dropped 5.5 percent.

Overall seafood prices increased 7.9 percent across 2022, which was “far below the rate of inflation for total food and beverages,” Roerink said.

“The rate of inflation had been decelerating for a while and continued in December. Certainly compared to the rest of the store, seafood prices have not increased to the same tune,” Roerink said.

Salmon prices rose 7 percent in December, but salmon sales still grew 2.2 percent by value while dropping 4.9 percent by volume. Salmon sales were up 2 percent overall by value in 2022.

Fresh shrimp sales plummeted 16.4 percent by value and 20.6 percent by volume in December, as prices rose 5.3 percent. Frozen shrimp sales declined 4.8 percent in December and fell 4.7 percent for 2022 as a whole by value.

Lobster prices plummeted 27.3 percent and crab prices declined 18.9 percent in December, 210 Analytics data showed, while lobster sales declined 4.7 percent by value and crab sales dropped 8.4 percent. Frozen crab sales plummeted by 23.5 percent in December and 21.7 percent of the year.

Frozen tilapia prices grew 5.2 percent, but sales grew 8.5 percent in December and 15.6 percent for 2022. Frozen pollock sales surged 15 percent in December and 9.4 percent for the year.

“While 2022 overall did see positive results, dollars, units, and volume dropped into negative territory for the fourth quarter of the year,” Roerink said. ”It is hard to say whether double-digit inflation dampened demand or the more holiday-centric and entertaining-forward quarter wasn’t able to hold the line with the first through third quarters of the year.”

Roerink said she foresees a brighter outlook for retail seafood sales in 2023 as inflation moderates and consumers prepare more meals at home.

“When I look at how the trend lines are moving from the first to the fourth quarter of 2022, things are definitely getting better,” Roerink said. “Inflation is moderating, volume declines are moderating, and at a certain point in time, we will start to lap the declines of 2022 and hopefully be able to come in above.”

The share of home-prepared meals increased from 78.9 percent in November to 81.5 percent in December, according to IRI’s December survey. Holiday occasions, along with the recent increase in flu and COVID cases, could be influencing factors in that trend, Roerink said. Conversely, the share of households that purchased restaurant meals declined from 80 percent in November to 76 percent in December.

“Cutting back on restaurant meals in lieu of preparing meals at home is another important cost-saving measure,” Roerink said.

Photo courtesy of Joni Hanebutt/Shutterstock


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