Seafood meets grill: GSMC analysts pick top 2022 trends

Analysts at NFI’s Global Seafood Market Conference picked their top retail trends for seafood in 2022.

Fresh and frozen seafood hit record sales in 2021, and analysts speaking at the National Fisheries Institute’s Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. on Tuesday, 18 January expect the positive sales trend to continue.

The frozen seafood category realized “amazing numbers” last year, IRI Senior Vice President Protein Practice Chris DuBois said, as sales rose 2.8 percent compared to 2020 and 40.8 percent versus 2019 to USD 7.2 billion (EUR 6.3 billion).

“Frozen seafood is one of the strongest categories inside the store, and had a fantastic year,” DuBois said.

There are many more U.S. households buying frozen seafood, DuBois said

“One of the big changes that happened in the industry [is that] typically you’d say more households would buy shelf-stable than frozen,” he said. “Last year, frozen took over shelf stable in penetration.”

Still, fresh seafood sales increased faster than frozen. Fresh seafood sales rose 4 percent compared to 2020 and 30.8 percent versus 2019, reaching USD 7.1 billion (EUR 6.3 billion).

“Dollars are growing due to inflation, less promotions, and premiumization,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink said.

Additionally, household penetration and shopping trips increased for fresh seafood.

“In terms of fresh seafood, we had a massive 2020, where we had so many new buyers come into the category, yet we still managed to stay close to that [in 2021],” Roerink said.

Salmon is the “powerhouse” of the fresh finfish market, as shoppers spent USD 83 (EUR 73) of the total USD 135 (EUR 119) they spend annually on fresh seafood on the popular fish.

“It is so big compared to the other categories, yet it is growing at one of the fastest rates,” Roerink said.

Retailers are doing a better job merchandising ready-to-eat seafood meals, along with seafood’s health benefits, sustainability, and traceability. And shoppers love the idea of having seafood in the supermarket deli prepared-meals section, Roerink said.

“That is an area of huge growth in the store right now,” she said. “People are very tired of the rotisserie and fried chicken.”

Among the convenient ready-to-heat or ready-to-cook items Roerink has seen at grocery stores across the country are Gorton’s Simple Bake Haddock, Wegman’s Coconut Shrimp Party Pack with Cocktail Sauce, and a retailer’s fresh salmon portions on a cedar plank, ready to be grilled. Roerink has also seen more grocers merchandising packaged seafood salads, smoked fish, and a variety of seafood cakes.

“I would say that seafood is a shining example that meats could absolutely learn from,” Roerink said.

Takeout and delivery of prepared seafood could be an area of growth in 2022 for the category as consumers seek protein variety, according to Roerink. And grilling, which has been traditionally dominated by the meat category, offers a huge potential growth opportunity for retailers to growth their value-added seafood sales, according to Roerink. Americans spent USD 4.5 billion (EUR 4 billion) on smokers and grills in 2020, she said.

“With all that equipment sitting at the home, I think grilling is a massive opportunity for seafood to get involved in,” Roerink said.

Roerink and DuBois said they expect seafood sales to remain strong this year, thanks to inflation, seafood’s health and immune-boosting benefits, and a shift in consumer lifestyle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consumers continue to eat a majority of meals at home. In November, IRI found that 80 percent of meals are prepared at home, Holiday celebrations remain home-centric as well, the speakers noted.

Online seafood sales also continue to surge annually, Roerink said. Fresh seafood e-commerce sales jumped 33 percent in 2021, while shelf-stable seafood sales increased 13 percent and frozen sales rose 4 percent. Overall online food and beverage sales will continue to soar this year, growing around 12 percent, according to IRI and 210 Analytics.

“Continued investments in digital versus store assortment, speed of delivery, and consumer experience will continue to drive incremental share gains for digital CPG,” Roerink said.

Photo courtesy of Jagcz/Shutterstock


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