US holiday retail seafood sales outlook bright

A sign for a sale on crabs in time for the holiday season.

Analysts and retailers are maintaining a positive outlook for U.S. retail seafood sales this holiday season, despite inflation pushing down fresh and frozen sales in 2022.

Because Covid-19 restrictions are not in place – as they were during the previous two holiday seasons – analysts are predicting more social and family gatherings will occur. And with that, there's hope Americans will continue their tradition of spending more on food – and seafood – during the holiday season.

Inflation continued to hamper frozen and fresh seafood sales in October both categories declined 3.4 percent, according to IRI and 210 Analytics, but the drop was not as steep as in previous months.

“Some shellfish categories are setting up for a great Christmas and New Year’s season," IRI Executive Vice President Americas Proteins Practice Leader Chris DuBois told SeafoodSource. "Prices [for] lobster, crab, and oysters have declined significantly and, with meat prices still high, I think consumers will be excited. Smart retailers will be looking to promote these [shellfish items] and I expect a strong season for shellfish sales this year."

Crab sales rose 1.4 percent for the month ending 6 November, according to IRI, due to a drop in price.

"Six in 10 Americans try to make room in their budgets for holiday celebrations, which “provides a bit more permissibility to purchase items they may skip during everyday meals with an eye on price,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink told SeafoodSource. “Crab is a good example of how better prices drove increased demand in recent months, which bodes well for the rest of the sector if inflation can be tamed."

Shriver, Louisiana, U.S.A.-based Rouses Markets Director of Seafood Denise Englade told SeafoodSource she's anticipating more family gatherings this holiday season. Rouses is hoping to capitalize with sales on higher-end seafood items. Rouses plans to promote lobster, crab, and other luxury seafood “at the best retail [prices] we can,” according to Englade.

"Families being able to freely gather this holiday season will Fhelp sales – even with the current economic inflation,” Englade said. 

Englade said it's likely moderately-priced items like shrimp and shrimp rings will generate the strongest sales this holiday season.

Total retail sales for the holiday season are projected to grow 7 percent in 2022, which is slower than the 15.4 percent growth in 2021, according to research firm Insider Intelligence. However, the company predicts e-commerce holiday sales to grow 12 percent this year, higher than last year's 10.4 percent hike.

Roerink said shrimp prices have remained relatively stable throughout 2022, especially compared to other other popular fish and shellfish options.

“Shrimp are definitely big for entertaining this time of the year and once again the industry is doing everything in its power to bring items at a price point that is affordable,” Roerink said.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, Lakeland, Florida, U.S.A.-based Publix stores were offering buy-one, get-one specials on smaller shrimp rings, Roerink said.

Seafood salads are also a cost-effective way to bring seafood to the table, Roerink said.

Despite supply chain and inflation issues, retailers have gotten very creative about holiday merchandising, Roerink said.

“By bundling certain items, consumers may be able to buy the entire meal for a little bit better price, while retailers are able to maintain the margins on the overall meal bundle,” she said.

Despite the factors suggesting holiday sales will remain strong, Englade they she is still worried about continued inflation impacting shoppers’ budgets. Overall fresh seafood sales will likely be lighter this holiday season than in 2021, Englade predicted.

“I think the economy is going to keep customers a little more conservative on purchases this holiday season. We will offer our customers these items at a fair retail, as we always do,” Englade said.

Suppliers are going the extra mile drawing attention to seafood during the holiday season, Roerink said. Clackamas, Oregon, U.S.A.-based Pacific Seafood is running its “12 Days of Fishmas” promotion again this year, offering 12 “virtual surprises” on a dedicated website and via social media. The promotion began 1 December and includes recipes, downloadable activities, and a gift card giveaway.

Portland, Maine, U.S.A.-based SoPo Seafood is offering The Maine Feast of The Seven Fishes Kit featuring seven Maine-harvested seafoods and seven recipes from Maine-based chefs, inspired by their own holiday traditions. Maine lobster meat, sea scallops, oysters, hake fillet, monkfish fillet, smoked salad, and seaweed salad are included in the kit.

Photo courtesy of 210 Analytics 


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