Less seafood on UK festive menus last year, inflation drives up value

Published on
March 5, 2018

U.K. consumers splashed out GBP 171.4 million (USD 236.2 million, EUR 192.3 million) on seafood in the two weeks to 30 December 2017, an increase of 4.4 percent year-on-year. But the total volume of seafood bought over the Christmas fortnight decreased by almost three percent to 14,870 metric tons (MT), new market analysis from industry body Seafish has found.

Although the increase in sales values was driven by inflation – sales volumes of fresh and ambient seafood were both down year-on-year – Seafish said the figures show that consumers were prioritizing treating themselves to something special over Christmas, despite having less to spend due to a year of rising prices and sluggish wage growth.

Salmon and both warmwater and coldwater shrimp were among the nation’s favorite seafood products over Christmas, and accounted for 47 percent of the total seafood sales value during the final two weeks of the year. Meanwhile, pangasius, squid, and cod saw the biggest increase in sales value out of the top 25 species year-on-year, at 29.8 percent, 17.5 percent, and 12.6 percent, respectively.

Frozen was the only sector to see an increase across sales volume (one percent), sales value (4.6 percent) and unit sales (3.7 percent) compared to the 2016 festive period. While sales of frozen shrimp and sardines skyrocketed, frozen cod came out on top for total sales, with 1,383 MT sold over the 2017 Christmas fortnight, an increase of 7.8 percent compared to 2016.

Sales of fresh seafood were up 4.2 percent year-on-year at GBP 114.9 million (USD 158.3 million, EUR 128.9 million), compared with GBP 110.2 million (USD 151.8 million, EUR 123.7 million) in 2016. Fresh seafood led in terms of sales volume in 2017 (7,339 MT), and enjoyed the largest jump in sales volume (12.6 percent) compared to the previous two weeks. 

Fresh breaded and fresh battered seafood were the only segments to see a lift in both sales volume and value when compared to both the fortnight preceding Christmas and previous year.

Reflecting the previous year’s trend, Christmas 2017 saw premium seafood products remain top of festive menus.  Consumers purchased 138.3 percent more lobster in comparison with the previous fortnight, the most significant species increase in volume sales during Christmas period, with fresh lobster seeing an increase of 224.7 percent. Scallops saw an increase in volume of 112.7 percent.

“These statistics are really encouraging for the seafood sector. Despite consumers facing rising prices and falling wages, they are still choosing to keep seafood on their festive menu and finding money to do so,” said Julia Brooks, market insight analyst at Seafish.

Brooks said that while it was good to see consumers happy to spend more on seafood, what remains important is that the volume of seafood sales also increases and that people are getting their recommended two portions of seafood a week.

“It’s unsurprising that frozen has continued to see growth again this year. The sector has seen lower inflation than fresh and ambient and ranges are becoming more diverse. In December, retailers upped their standard frozen offering with convenient party ranges for special occasions, such as prawn rings, lobster thermidor, and crab gratin," Brooks said. “With the prospect of further inflation, people are shopping around to ensure they get value for money, meaning the growth of the discounters is set to continue. They are extending their reach geographically and developing their ranges to cover value and premium tiers.”

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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