Supply-chain disruptions taking toll on US seafood sales

Supply chain problems are causing issues for seafood sales in U.S. grocery stores.

Supply chain problems are causing issues for seafood sales in U.S. grocery stores.

Fresh seafood sales dropped 0.3 percent in November 2021 year-over-year, while ambient sales fell 3.5 percent, according to new data from IRI and 210 Analytics.

"Departments across the store are dealing with out-of-stocks and SKU reduction amid significant supply chain disruption and constraints,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink told SeafoodSource.

Shellfish supply, in particular, has been impacted, with the number of shellfish items retailers carry down 9.1 percent. As a result, sales dropped 8.5 percent in November compared to November 2020. However, fresh finfish sales rose 4.3 percent.

“Finfish is holding steady in assortment, which also contributed to the higher gains,” Roerink said.

Roerink said there was 0.4 growth in frozen seafood sales in November, a positive considering it’s a time of year when shoppers are typically focus on fresh seafood.

“Frozen seafood had the biggest gains when compared with 2019,” Roerink said. “Of the frozen protein offerings, seafood was by far the largest with sales of USD 492 million [EUR 437 million] in November 2021.”

Seafood sales overall have been strong over the past year, according to IRI and 210 Analytics. For the year ending 28 November, fresh seafood sales gained 4.9 percent to reach US 6.5 billion (EUR 5.8 billion), while frozen seafood sales rose 2.4 percent to hit USD 6.7 billion (EUR 5.9 billion) in total. Conversely, ambient seafood sales plummeted 12.3 percent to USD 2.3 billion (EUR 2 billion).

”Behind the year-to-date view is a roller coaster ride of big increases and decreases in sales gains,” Roerink said. “Sales during the last few months have alternated between slightly below and slightly above year ago levels.”

However, compared to 2019, frozen seafood sales remain 35 percent to 40 percent above typical levels and fresh seafood is around 30 percent above 2019 levels, according to 210 Analytics. Roerink said it’s not clear what impact inflation is having on seafood sales, but shoppers are very concerned about higher grocery costs overall, she said. IRI’s consumer survey found that 90 percent of primary shoppers reported grocery item prices being a little (42 percent) or much (49 percent) higher. Among consumers who noted higher prices, 92 percent are extremely (41 percent) or somewhat (51 percent) concerned.

“This means 83 percent of primary shoppers are aware and concerned of the inflationary conditions,” Roerink said. “In response, 61 percent of consumers have made changes to their grocery selection, in particular looking for money-saving measures [such as] cutting back on non-essentials and switching to store brands.”

Prices for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 0.9 percent in November, with the largest increase (2.2 percent) seen on pork products, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. That is a smaller increase than in October, when the price of meats, poultry, fish, and eggs jumped 11.9 percent.

Overall, the Consumer Price Index for food increased 0.7 percent in November after rising 0.9 percent in both September and October. The food at home index rose 0.8 percent in November, with all six major grocery store food group indexes rising, the BLS said.

Despite ballooning food costs, U.S. online grocery sales continue to be robust, growing 6 percent to USD 8.6 billion (EUR 7.6 billion) in November. Around 69 million U.S. households bought groceries online, a 15 percent jump versus November 2020, according to a new Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey. The sales increase can be primarily attributed to new customers trying e-commerce for the first time, particularly at mass-market retailers, according to Brick Meets Click.

“Even as total online grocery sales increase, some conventional and regional grocers have reported softer sales performance during November, which is why looking at the broader e-grocery market is so important for identifying specific opportunities for improvement,” Brick Meets Click Partner David Bishop said in a press release.  “For example, not offering pick-up is likely to weigh on sales growth. Failing to attract early-stage family households can affect growth prospects, and if the shopping experience isn’t comparable to mass rivals, that’s definitely hurting performance.”

Photo courtesy of FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock


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