Prepared seafood dishes starring in UK supermarkets

Even though chilled seafood volumes at United Kingdom supermarkets dropped over the last quarter, value-added seafood dishes are still shining bright.

Meat, fish and poultry sales are all suffering, due to a combination of inflation and fewer promotions, according to Kantar Worldpanel’s “Meat, Fish & Poultry Market Update” for the 12 weeks ending on 16 July.

“Chilled fish is one of the categories seeing highest inflation in grocery, with base prices up significantly and promotional volumes falling by a third compared with last year. These changes are holding down volumes, but driving value growth as prices increase rapidly,” said Nathan Ward, business unit director for meat, fish and poultry at Kantar.

The average prices for natural fish have jumped BP 1.92 (USD 2.50, EUR 2.11) per kilo, which sent volumes falling 9.4 percent. However, sales rose 5.4 percent to BP 157.8 million (USD 205 million, EUR 174 million), so the category is still profitable for retailers.

Because promotional volumes of natural fish also dropped 60 percent, half a million fewer shoppers are estimated to be purchasing from the category, according to Ward. Likewise, smoked fish prices have climbed by BP 1.42 (USD 1.85, EUR 1.56) per kilo, but promotional volumes have slipped by around 50 percent, “driving similar shopper losses,” Ward said. Shellfish sales have also seen a downtrend, dropping 3.5 percent to BP 53.7 million (USD 70 million, EUR 59 million) for the quarter, the Kantar update revealed.  

Conversely, value-added seafood dishes are having their moment in the spotlight, it seems. “470,000 more shoppers buy the sector with promotions increasing and prawn, cod and haddock dishes particularly driving the growth,” Ward said.

Because consumers are continuing to move towards more convenient meal options, value-added fish has grown to account for almost a third of volume in the category, according to Ward.

“The ranges perform well as they are a convenient formats, providing tasty meal solutions [so] they address many of the barriers to seafood consumption,” added Julia Brooks, market insight analyst for Seafish. “The solutions remove the need for consumers to prepare the fish and/or choose which ingredients to pair it with, plus they are packaged in easy-to-cook formats with clear instructions.”

As a result, sales of value-added seafood items rose 10.5 percent to BP 106.4 million (USD 138 million, EUR 117 million) in the quarter, while sales of battered seafood items surged 11.4 percent to BP 4 million (USD 5 million, EUR 4.4 million). Breaded seafood products also jumped 9 percent to reach BP 29.1 million (USD 38 million, EUR 32 million).

Sales leaders of chilled seafood meals include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Mark & Spencer, and Co-op as of 16 July, according to ACNielsen Homescan MAT. Leaders of chilled prepared seafood sales include Aldi, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, and Waitrose.

Top selling products in the value-added category include ready-to-cook products such as salmon in watercress sauce, fish pies, prawn cocktail, and mussels in white wine.

Buyers of value-added fish are typically older, “post-family”-shoppers, “However, younger ‘pre-family’ consumers account for 11 percent of sales, so they remain a key target for brands,” Ward said.


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