How to grow prepared seafood sales

Sales of supermarket prepared foods – including snacks and meals featuring seafood – are skyrocketing. Whereas the foodservice industry achieved only 2 percent growth from 2006 to 2014, supermarket fresh prepared foods grew 10.4 percent annually during the same timeframe, according to a new report from Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic.

In 2014, sales of prepared fresh foods in supermarkets reached USD 27.5 billion (EUR 24.7 billion), according to Technomic. In addition, supermarket fresh prepared foods will continue to be the leading segment in the food industry in terms of long-term growth.

Successful retailers in the fresh prepared seafood realm include chains such as Giant Eagle/ Market District, Wegmans, Hy-Vee, Price Chopper’s Market 32 stores, United Texas and Mariano’s. Some of the chains “have made significant investments in their fresh prepared food areas as well as their in-store experiences,” Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods at FMI, told SeafoodSource.

United Supermarkets has greatly expanded its prepared seafood selection over the last couple of years. A popular recent addition is a “snack pack” of United’s in-house prepared crab salad, along with crackers and grapes, which retails for between USD 3.99 (EUR 3.59) and USD 4.99 (EUR 4.49) per pack. “It is just on fire. People are loving the ease and convenience of ‘grab and go", good quality seafood items,” said Scott Nettles, senior director of perishables for United Supermarkets.

In-store experiences that are effective at driving prepared food sales include café-style seating and made-to-order stations. Many supermarkets are also hiring skilled foodservice leaders and staff, and training their staff to educate shoppers on how to prepare seafood.

“Today, 88 percent of grocery stores at some level employ a professionally-trained chef. Those chefs are being tasked with contemporizing the prepared foods menus, including adding seafood,” said Steven Johnson, grocerant guru at Foodservice Solutions, a foodservice and hospitality consulting firm that specializes in the grocerant niche.

Retailers that are profitable in prepared foods also feature seafood dishes that only require one or two steps, such as stuffed salmon with crab – along with cooking directions – or seafood kabobs, ready to cook with instructions, according to Stein. “As our research suggests, food retailers that engage the customer by introducing their shoppers to a variety of product offerings and offer tips on how to cook, increase consumer spend.”

Other ways to grow prepared seafood sales include adding seafood as a topping on ready-to-eat pizza and featuring seafood items as limited time offers one day a week, such as on Fridays, “tapping into existing, long-standing consumer purchase rituals,” Johnson said.


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