Fresh seafood the retail star in April

Published on
May 13, 2021

Fresh seafood sales in U.S. supermarkets rose sharply in April, while frozen and ambient sales dropped compared to last year, new data shows.

Fresh seafood sales soared 11.5 percent over April 2020 to reach USD 552 million (EUR 454 million), in spite of the fact that much of the Lent- and Easter-related seafood sales were a month earlier in March due to Easter taking place on 4 April, according to IRI and 210 Analytics.

Fresh seafood sales also spiked 26.5 percent compared to April 2019, showing strong increases even when compared to pre-pandemic statistics.

The first week of April – Easter week – produced the biggest sales for fresh seafood: USD 159 million (EUR 131 million).

“That week, sales were 39.8 percent ahead of a year ago, and 45.4 percent ahead of 2019,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink told SeafoodSource.

April’s fresh seafood sales growth was equally driven by shellfish and finfish, at around 10 percent growth each, according to Roerink.

“Volume gains were slightly lower than dollar gains – indicating inflationary conditions, particularly for finfish,” Roerink said.

Meanwhile, frozen seafood sales declined 11.2 percent to USD 545 million (EUR 448 million), while ambient seafood sales plummeted 25 percent to USD 186 million (EUR 153 million), compared to April 2020.

“Frozen seafood had an incredibly successful pandemic year as shoppers focused on something different, making healthy food choices and shelf life all at the same time,” Roerink said. “Despite very robust demand, frozen seafood was unable to match last year’s results.”

The growth in fresh seafood versus frozen is in sharp contrast to the same period last year, when many supermarkets were forced to close fresh counters entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused shifts in consumer demand and staffing complications in grocery stores.

Still, April 2021 frozen seafood sales surged 31 percent compared to April 2019, “which is very much in line with the level of demand we have been seeing the past six months,” Roerink noted.

“I’m confident that both fresh and frozen seafood will have a continued strong performance in the next few months compared to that pre-pandemic normal,” Roerink said.

Shelf-stable seafood realized tremendous sales spikes early in the pandemic when shoppers were stocking their pantries. In 2020, sales spiked 10 percent in March as consumers sought items that would last amid panic-buying.

“Now lapping those tremendous spikes come April, ambient seafood was unable to hold the line, but does continue to sell about the same as it did in 2019, which we consider the pre-pandemic normal,” Roerink said.

The big opportunity for ambient seafood products is to move from a backup solution to a planned meal occasion, according to Roerink.

“Lunch is a terrific occasion to do just that as many people are still working from home and want a quick and convenient meal,” she said.

Fifty-six percent of consumers say they are bored with their go-to solutions, according to an April consumer survey conducted by 210 Analytics.

Consumers’ increase in in-store shopping is likely to benefit fresh seafood sales, according to Roerink.

“The increase in trip frequency is also likely to benefit fresh seafood sales as people are less concerned over shelf life,” she said.

Plus, shoppers’ expanding time in stores tends to provide a better environment for new product introductions and brand extensions as they take more time to look for something different, according to Roerink.

“At the same time, finding ways to elevate visibility of new items in the online environment continues to be important as online shoppers are more loyal to past purchases,” she said.

While fresh seafood has seen tremendous increases in e-commerce sales, the category continues to under index against shelf-stable and frozen seafood sales in online baskets, Roerink added.  

Photo courtesy of The Toidi/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor



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