SeafoodSource’s top 5 foodservice and retail stories of 2022
Coming out of 2021, with the worst of the Covid-19 crisis in the rearview mirror, the global foodservice sector was ready to resume widescale in-premises dining, and the retail sector was set to build on record sales achieved as customers sought out new culinary experiences during the pandemic.
However, spiraling inflation created unexpected headwinds, leaving foodservice vendors and retailers scrambling to contain the damage. In SeafoodSource’s top 5 most-read foodservice and retail stories of 2022, concern over the fallout from global inflation and the war in Ukraine can be clearly seen.
But ever-inventive, the seafood sector created some good news stories in 2022 that also made waves in the foodservice and retail space – generous offers of free meals for veterans in the U.S., deals for those seeking to spark romance through some shared culinary delights, and a showman’s bid in Japan for bragging rights in spending more than JPY 16 million (USD 145,000, EUR 128,000) on a single fish.
Number 5: Retail sector’s US seafood sales plunge as inflation continues to bite
U.S. grocery stores struggled in 2022 with rising prices leading to falling sales. Besides inflation, a shortage of inventory and a subsequent lack of product assortments also combined to depress seafood sales at retail across the U.S. through the entire year.
“Departments across the store are dealing with out-of-stocks and SKU reduction amid significant supply chain disruption and constraints,” Roerink said. “This means a smaller number of items need to work harder to achieve the same level of sales.”
In May, Roerink told SeafoodSource consumer concern about inflation was “intensifying by the month,” resulting in public attitudes toward grocery-store shopping undergoing a major shift. Bargain-hunting, bulk-buying, and trading down were all trends on the rise in 2022, according to Roerink.
“Switching stores is typically one of the very last measures consumers take, but this time around, it is already in the mix. This is a telltale sign of consumers’ level of concern and true pressure on income,” she said.
Number 4: Seafood restaurants offering salmon, shrimp specials for Veterans Day
U.S. veterans were treated to some great seafood deals on Veterans Day, which fell on 11 November in 2022.
McCormick and Schmick’s, Red Lobster, Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, and Applebee’s were among the major U.S. franchises celebrating the holiday by offering discounts or free meals to those who completed military service in the U.S. armed forces.
Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based Ivar’s Restaurants extended an offer of a free meal to all veterans and active military personnel.
“Just come in ... and order from our special menu,” the restaurant chain said in an email to customers.
Number 3: Major US restaurant chains cease buying Russian seafood
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, several major U.S. seafood restaurant chains responded by halting their purchase of seafood from Russia.
In March 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian seafood imports, but even before that, restaurant groups including PPX Hospitality Brands – the operator of Legal Sea Foods, Smith & Wollensky, and Strega Italiano – and Red Lobster pledged not to buy seafood of Russian origin.
The Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative, representing seafood processors in the Northeast U.S. state, led a call for both the U.S. government and the U.S. seafood industry to take action to discontinue imports of Russian seafood.
“The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has forced our industry – and our nation – to decide between our ideals and our wallets,” Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative Executive Director Mark E. DeCristoforo told SeafoodSource. “To do anything other than stand in solidarity with the courageous Ukrainian people would be to betray our values. We are proud to do our small part in combating evil and aggression and to stand with Ukraine. We are willing to sacrifice our own economic interests for the interests of a people under siege.”
Number 2: Red Lobster releases 2022 Lobsterfest, Valentine’s Day specials
There is arguably no more-prominent seafood promotion event in the United States than Red Lobster’s Lobsterfest, and for 2022, the restaurant chain focused on seafood’s romantic appeal.
Acquired by Thai Union in 2020, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. Red Lobster introduced “Date Night Feast for Two” in time for Valentine’s Day on 14 February. The special deal featured Maine lobster tails, sirloin steaks, jumbo shrimp, and sides.
The chain also featured several returning Lobsterfest dishes, including the Lobster Lover’s Dream, a roasted rock lobster tail, butter-poached Maine lobster tail and lobster-and-shrimp linguini in a creamy lobster sauce.
In a nod to the difficult economic times being felt by many Americans, Red Lobster also introduced a “10 Under USD 10.00 (EUR 8.90)” lunch menu and a 3 from the Sea combination, as well as a newly designed menu, “providing great value options for guests no matter when the craving hits,” Red Lobster said.
Number 1: Japan's top tuna of 2022 sells for “moderate” price
One of the world’s great seafood traditions is the bluefin tuna auction at Japan’s Toyosu (and previously, the Tsukiji) wholesale market. The best bluefin tuna sold at the first tuna auction of the year is annually the subject of a bidding war, with the winner guaranteed global press attention.
From 2008 to 2015, due to fierce competition between Kiyoshi Kimura – owner of the Japanese sushi restaurant chain Sushi Zanmai – and the Hong Kong-based Taste of Japan Group, which owns Itamae Sushi, prices soared, reaching a zenith in 2019, when Kimura paid JPY 333.6 million (USD 3.1 million, EUR 2.7 million, at the time).
However, in 2022, with Kimura sitting out the bidding in deference to Japan’s fight against Covid-19, intermediate wholesaler Yamayuki and restaurant operator Onodera Group won the day with a lower bid of JPY 16.88 million (USD 145,514, EUR 128,726 at the time). Yamayuki, which supplies many of the top artisanal sushi bars in Tokyo, also snagged the top fish last year and in 2018.
Photo courtesy of Colleen Michaels/Shutterstock