Frozen seafood’s retail spike expected to continue, retailers boost e-commerce services

Frozen seafood sales in U.S. supermarkets have continued their rapid growth well after a  panic-buying spree initiated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, and major grocery chains continue to shore up e-commerce offerings.

Frozen seafood sales jumped 42 percent, and volume climbed 34 percent, for the week ending 23 August compared to the same week last year, according to IRI and 210 Analytics.

Analysts expect Americans’ interest in eating healthy – and purchasing seafood – to only grow in the near future. And Americans’ surge in grocery-buying – particularly frozen seafood – is also expected to continue this fall and winter, in part due to back-to-school trends.

IRI’s most recent COVID-19 shopper impact survey found that many more parents said their school-aged children will be partaking in virtual education only, which pushes more meals to home.

Younger children, aged 7 to 12, have the highest likelihood of online versus in-classroom education, as reported by 58 percent of parents, 210 Analytics reported. And 52 percent of parents with students ages 13 to 17 said their children will enroll in virtual education only, with an additional 20 percent in hybrid formats.

“Frozen foods are not so very easily taken as lunchbox meals, but with more than 50 percent of the nation’s school-aged children partaking in virtual education, there are a lot of snack and lunch dollars that will be spent at home versus in the school cafeteria,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink told SeafoodSource. “That favors frozen because, for students who are at home, they’re able to microwave a little entree, a pizza, some fish sticks, etcetera. Likewise, adults working from home may not have the opportunity to heat something up at work, whereas they are able to use the microwave, oven, or air fryer at home."

Frozen seafood has been leading growth in the frozen food aisle for months, Roerink said, and she does not expect the significant sales increases to diminish anytime soon.

“When the meat supply was scarce, we saw people starting to shift to seafood. Additionally, some people pointed to wanting more protein variety now that they are cooking more of their meals versus eating out,” Roerink said. “Frozen seafood is popular given kid-friendly options — but most of all, shelf-life.”

Roerink said those trends signal seafood sales will remain higher than normal.

“I suspect we are going to see many more months of highly elevated frozen seafood sales, as clearly people are finding the frozen aisle during the pandemic,” Roerink said.

More and more of those sales are also coming via e-commerce, as consumers are eating more meals at home. To meet consumers’ use of online shopping to buy seafood and other groceries, Walmart, Amazon, and other major retailers are adding services.

This week, Walmart officially launched its previously-announced Walmart+ membership program, designed to compete with Amazon Prime. Walmart+ members receive unlimited free delivery from stores, fuel discounts, and “access to tools that make shopping faster for families,” the retailer said in a press release.

In addition to its online presence, Walmart+ has the reach of more than 4,700 stores – including 2,700 stores that offer delivery as fast as same-day, Walmart said.

Membership is USD 98.00 (EUR 82.73) per year or USD 12.95 (EUR 10.93) monthly.

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to add warehouses across the U.S. to deliver more goods, and recently won Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to operate its Prime Air delivery drones.

“We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30-minute delivery,” said Amazon Vice President David Carbon, who oversees the drone effort, according to Nasdaq.

Amazon also opened its first “dark” or “permanent online-only” Whole Foods Market store in Brooklyn, New York, this week. The store is not open to the public and is intended to serve as more of a warehouse from which Amazon can make grocery deliveries, USA Today reported.

To attract more online and in-store shoppers, Target recently added 600 items to its Good and Gather private label line, including unidentified frozen seafood offerings.

Retailers are upping their e-commerce and grocery delivery options due to increased demand since the start of the pandemic. In fact, 34.6 percent of U.S. households shopped via e-commerce for the 12 weeks ending July 12, according to research firm IRI, compared to 24.9 percent for the 12 weeks ending 26 January.

Fresh foods purchased via e-commerce increased a significant 39 percent for the 12 weeks ending July 12, according to IRI. Combined, the increase in frozen and fresh retail sales online showcase consumer demand for convenient meals that can be eaten at home.

Photo courtesy of LADO/Shutterstock


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