With prices low, US grocers push shrimp for the holidays

Published on
December 20, 2018

Cheaper farmed shrimp prices are benefitting American retailers and consumers this holiday season.

Prices for imported farmed shrimp have dropped significantly since the summer, and fallen an additional USD 0.30 to 0.40 (EUR 0.26 to 0.35) per pound over the last month. 

There are a variety of reasons for the steep drop in prices. Overproduction, heavy inventory in United States’ cold storage, rejections of imported shrimp by the U.S.A., and close competition for vannamei from other suppliers are all impacting shrimp pricing. Shrimp from India, which is the largest supplier to the United States, is especially impacted according to Haroon Chaudhri, director of sales for importer CleanWaterFish.

Delivered duty-paid New York prices on Indian shrimp are as low as USD 3.20 (EUR 2.80) per pound for 30/40s headless, shell-on, and USD 3.65 (EUR 3.19) per pound for 50/60s, Chaudhri said.

“These are much lower than a few months ago, and I see them falling further,” Chaudhri told SeafoodSource.

Shrimp imports to the U.S. rose 8.7 percent in October compared to the same month in 2017, according to National Marine Fisheries Service data, while Indian imports soared 17.2 percent in October compared to last year.

As a result, many grocery chains are discounting frozen and refreshed farmed shrimp – particularly cooked shrimp – with offers such as as buy-one, get-one free shrimp rings.

In mid-December, Malvern, Pennsylvania-based Acme Markets was retailing raw, easy-peel, tail-on 26/30s from India for USD 4.99 (EUR 4.37) a pound - sold in a four-pound bag, or USD 6.99 (EUR 6.11) per pound loose. The operator of 177 grocery stores is also selling 26/30s cooked shrimp for USD 8.99 (EUR 7.86) per pound for a two-pound bag or USD 9.99 (EUR 8.74) per pound loose. 

Charles Bell, assistant meat and seafood director for Acme, told SeafoodSource that the shrimp market has been favorable and shrimp is the “number-one commodity” at its stores.

“We are very aggressive in our shrimp sales and always have it on the front cover of the ad. Our shrimp sales are five percent higher than last year at this time,” Bell said.

Shrimp costs have stabilized and were at their lowest point in more than 10 years in late September, Bell said.

“We took advantage and made a substantial buy [from India] then,” he said.

Lower raw material costs for shrimp have helped us “gain lost sales in all crab, since that market has been in turmoil,” Bell said.

Meanwhile, Lakeland, Florida-based Publix Super Markets, which operates more than 1,200 stores, recently promoted previously-frozen medium white shrimp (41/50s) for USD 5.99 (EUR 5.24) per pound.

“Prices are dropping with improved availability, driven largely by recovery in Asia and continued growth in other growing regions,” Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Publix, told SeafoodSource.

“The competition between retailers [on shrimp sales] is pretty fierce; it’s about who puts the ad out there first,” William Bradford, marketing and communications manager for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based distributor Samuels and Son Seafood, told SeafoodSource. 

Consumers are benefitting as a result. Discounts on convenient forms of shrimp, such as cooked and peeled-and-deveined, “enable regular shoppers to get something ready-to-go and still make money for the retailer,” Bradford said.

Meanwhile, U.S. restaurant chains, which typically forward-contract for shrimp, are buying low, but are not running many discounts or special promotions, importers and exporters told SeafoodSource. 

“I thought Red Lobster and others may put out specials, but I have not seen any significant price drops,” Chaudhri said, adding that he has also not seen significant price reductions or promotions from retailers, either.

While wild domestic shrimp supply is not nearly as significant as farmed shrimp, some supermarket chains have been promoting wild shrimp throughout the fall and holiday season. 

“With great suppliers and strong relationships, we are able to secure the product that we need to promote wild shrimp in addition to our farmed shrimp,” Brous said. “That promotional strategy is not a result of the lower costs. We have always promoted both wild and farmed.”

Samuels and Son’s monthly wholesale price cut on 16/20s wild shrimp from Texas have also been popular. 

“People are really starting to utilize those [shrimp] and we have gotten a lot of good feedback on them,” Bradford said.

Contributing Editor

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