Shrimp sales growth strong in retail, foodservice markets

Published on
February 11, 2020

Shrimp sales in the United States have been increasing steadily over the past few years, with the growth of sales in restaurants outpacing the rate of traditional foodservice’s growth by almost double.

Estimates presented at the Global Seafood Market Conference show that between 2018 and 2019, shrimp sales grew by over 6 percent, and current estimates of growth between 2019 and 2020 have potential to hit 8 percent growth – or nearly 300 million pounds of shrimp sold in foodservice.

Sales in every major U.S. census division – Mountain Pacific, West South Central, West North Central, East South Central, East North Central, South Atlantic, Mid Atlantic, and New England – increased between 2018 and 2019, with the East South Central region seeing almost 9 percent growth in shrimp sales.

“Shrimp sales have done really really well on menus and restaurants,” Michael Seidel, vice president of procurement for the Performance Food Group, said during a panel on the topic.  

Part of that growth, Seidel speculated, could be related to the inflating prices of lobster and crab. Shrimp, he said, often gets associated with those more luxury shellfish items, but its lower price point makes it an easier cell to consumers who may not be as adventurous.

“The last several years, Americans have recognized the value in shrimp,” Seidel said. “It’s still perceived as kind of a luxury item, but it’s a great value.”

By species, the vast majority of shrimp sales goes to white shrimp. Over the past 12 months, sales of the species grew by 7.3 percent, and over 70 percent of all shrimp sales by pound is a white species variety.

In the restaurant landscape, the vast majority of all the sales of shrimp took place in smaller commercial independent restaurants, which have only one or two locations. Over 127 million pounds of shrimp was sold to independents by distributors, almost half of all sales.

The next largest destination for shrimp was smaller micro-chains that comprise of between three and 19 restaurants, which purchased 38.4 million pounds of shrimp.

“I find this amazing, the volume of shrimp that’s sold, it’s those one- to two-count customers,” Seidel said.

Of those restaurants, bar and grill saw 7 percent growth in sales to 41.5 million pounds; casual dining, seafood saw growth of 5.1 percent to 34.9 million pounds; casual dining, Mexican saw growth of 6.9 percent to 32.5 million pounds; and family-style restaurants saw 9.1 percent growth to 10.6 million pounds.

Still, even with that growth, seafood still has a ways to go to break into the top 20 restaurants by revenue. Only one restaurant chain in the top 20 by size, Olive Garden, has significant menu depth for seafood items. The first restaurant that serves primarily seafood to show up on the list – Red Lobster – is the 33rd in the country in terms of annual revenue.

Still, it isn’t just the restaurant side of things that is seeing impressive growth. Retail sales of shrimp are also growing at a fast pace, going from roughly 275 million pounds in 2014 to 415 million pounds in 2019.

On the retail side, the number of households buying shrimp at retail has also increased. In 2014, 44.2 percent of households bought shrimp at retail, while in 2019 that number went up to 48.6 percent.

That growth could likely be linked to the decreasing cost of shrimp in retail, with the average price per pound at retail sitting at USD 7.40 (EUR 6.78) in 2019.

The four-week moving average price for 16-20 raw shrimp, as well, saw steady declines from 2014 to 2019. Although prices haven’t reached the historic lows of the fall season in 2016, they’ve gotten close – the average price sits below USD 8.00 (EUR 7.33) per pound.

Feature activity in retail establishments, as well, have increased. Between 2014 and 2019, retail stores increased their features of shrimp by 51 percent.

All told, everyday pricing of shrimp across all sizes and preparations has fallen by roughly 13.5 percent on average.

“On top of this, there’s a couple other things going on at retail, some megatrends going on, and health and wellness is absolutely one of those,” Tom Domino, procurement manager at Wakefern Food Corp., said. He pointed out the increasing trend of plant-based analogues capitalizing on the wellness trend, and how seafood can also capitalize on it.

“Seafood, shrimp in particular, is very well-positioned for growth. We should all be embracing this,” Domino said. “We really, all of us in this room, should be rooting for shrimp.” 

Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource 

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