Grocers’ sales of farmed, wild salmon soars

Published on
August 29, 2016

Stronger farmed and wild salmon prices – along with an increase in dollar sales and volume – was one of the biggest fresh seafood trends in U.S. supermarkets during the second quarter of 2016.

Wild and farmed salmon sales rose 3.4 percent to USD 290.5 million (EUR 258.8 milion) in grocery stores nationwide for the second quarter ending 2 July, according to exclusive data from Nielsen Perishables Group. Surprisingly, sales grew even though the average price rose 2.4 percent to USD 7.98 (EUR 7.11) a pound.

“We are definitely up on farmed salmon prices. Because of supply problems in Chile, our costs are USD 1 (EUR .89) per pound or more higher,” said Scott Nettles, senior director of perishables for Lubbock, Texas-based United Texas, owned by Albertsons.

However, sales of farmed salmon rose 1 percent at United Texas in the second quarter, even though prices rose to USD 9.30 (EUR 8.29) per pound on average. “Our margin was down 1,200 basis points, though,” Nettles said.

Likewise, sales of Atlantic salmon fillets soared during the first half of this year at Winter Park, Fla.-based retailer and wholesaler Lombardi’s Seafood. However, only around 40 percent of its farmed salmon sales consisted of Atlantic salmon fillets from Chile. The company added a hormone-free, Puget Sound ocean-raised farmed salmon this year that now makes up around 60 percent of its farmed salmon sales.

“We used to sell a lot of the Chilean salmon fillets, but now sales for that [ocean pen] salmon have skyrocketed. Some of the higher-end restaurants are using that product too,” said Tony Lombardi, owner of Lombardi’s Seafood.

Meanwhile, United Texas’s wild Copper River salmon prices averaged USD 21.68 (EUR 19.32) per pound during the quarter, down from USD 25 a pound for the same quarter in 2015. “There was more availability of wild salmon this year at better prices. Our sales increased 38 percent, and our volume was up 48 percent,” Nettles said.

Sea bass/ sea bream, trout, halibut and haddock also had double-digit sales increases in the second quarter of 2016, according to Nielsen Perishables Group.

Despite the sales growth in salmon and other species, U.S. supermarkets realized a decline in sales of tilapia and catfish. Tilapia sales plummeted 19.7 percent to USD 111.7 million (EUR 99.5 million), Nielsen Perishables Group said, despite tilapia’s average retail price drop of 6.4 percent to USD 3.67 (EUR 3.27) per pound.

“Tilapia sales are down, and it might be because swai is so much cheaper,” Lombardi said. “We have seen an increase in sales of swai.”

United also saw tilapia sales plunge 24 percent in the quarter, even though the average retail price was down slightly to USD 8.66 (EUR 7.72) a pound in its stores.” I don’t know if it was because of ad activity or a shift to less conventional fillets,” Nettles said.

Catfish sales dropped 6.9 percent to USD 51.4 (EUR 45.8) million in U.S. supermarkets for the second quarter, despite a drop in price of 4 percent to USD 4.37 (EUR 3.89) a pound on average.

Catfish sales at United Texas also dropped 5.5 percent for the quarter while volume declined 7 percent, according to Nettles. “Our consumers are becoming more and more educated about the different seafoods there are, and catfish is becoming less of our total mix.”

Also, shoppers may be switching to more wild fish and fish that can be grilled, since catfish is typically fried, Nettles said.

Contributing Editor



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