Inflation dampens US retail seafood sales in January

Published on
February 14, 2022
Increasing inflation and spiking seafood prices hampered the category’s U.S. retail sales in January.

Increasing inflation and spiking seafood prices hampered the category’s U.S. retail sales in January.

Fresh seafood prices soared 10.8 percent year-over-year in January to USD 8.92 (EUR 7.89) per unit on average, according to new data from IRI and 210 Analytics, led by a 17.2 percent hike in finfish prices. Frozen seafood prices jumped 10.2 percent to USD 9.94 (EUR 8.79) per unit on average, while ambient seafood prices rose 7.2 percent to USD 2.01 (EUR 1.78) per unit compared to 2021.

Inflation and supply-chain problems hampered seafood sales in January, with sales of fresh seafood dropping 7.3 percent to USD 666 million (EUR 589 million).

Price increases are being seen across most supermarket sales categories. The consumer price index ballooned 7.5 percent for the 12 months ending January 2022, the highest increase in 40 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A majority of shoppers (89 percent) are “very aware” of food inflation and 95 percent worry about it, according to an IRI survey. In addition, 42 percent of shoppers are “extremely concerned” about the price increases they are seeing across the grocery store.

Food inflation has more shoppers on high alert than the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink. In January, only 38 percent of the population were “extremely concerned” about COVID-19, according to IRI, a sharp decline from 66 percent the high in April 2020.

“Departments across the store are dealing with out-of-stocks and SKU reduction amid significant supply chain disruption and constraints,” Roerink said.

Shellfish assortment is down 6.6 percent from last January’s levels, while the average number of finfish items appearing in U.S. grocery stores declined 1.8 percent.

Roerink said a progressive decline in seafood sales through each week in January “may signal further pressure for February,” Roerink said.

“The numbers are a bit worrisome when you look at the five January weeks that trail off a little compared to the week prior,” Roerink said. “At the same time, we’re entering a strong period for seafood sales, which makes it extra hard to keep up with the prior year’s records.”

Frozen seafood sales declined only 1 percent for the month, to USD 737 million (EUR 652 million), but remained biggest seller within the frozen animal protein category. However, frozen seafood dropped 16.4 percent by units sold and 16.2 percent by volume in January. And shelf-stable seafood sales declined 1.6 percent in January to USD 250 million (EUR 221 million).

However, rising inflation wasn’t all bad news for the seafood sector. Because of higher seafood prices, along with an upswing in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron strain of COVID-19, the number of meals being eaten at home reached 82 percent, its highest rate since February 2021, according to Roerink.

Ordering food for take-out from restaurants remained popular in January, with 54 percent of shoppers doing so. However, the number of people committing to indoor dining declined to 41 percent, according to IRI.

“In addition to COVID concerns, cutting back on restaurant spending is one of the most popular money-saving measures,” Roerink said.

In response to inflationary pressure around the store, 64 percent of shoppers have made one or more changes to what and how they buy.

Forty-five percent of shoppers look for sales specials more often, 31 percent are cutting back on non-essentials, 19 percent buy more private-label brands, and 12 percent now shop at a lower-cost retailer, according to IRI.

Photo courtesy of The Toidi/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor



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