Private label sales grow as US inflation dampens seafood spending

Seafood counter

Overall U.S. food inflation and seafood inflation continued to dampen consumer spending power in March, pushing down retail seafood sales. However, private label seafood product sales are on the upswing, along with overall food and restaurant sales.

Fresh seafood prices realized “a small uptick” of 2.6 percent in March 2023 versus March 2022, 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink said, citing Circana data.

“Only fresh finfish still had lingering inflation of 5.2 percent when compared to March 2022 pricing levels,” she said, adding fresh shellfish prices declined 2 percent for the month.

Frozen seafood prices inclined 3.2 percent in March 2022, while ambient inflation increased 3.8 percent.

Seafood inflation rose 2.6 percent in March compared to March 2022, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, but fell 1.1 percent in March compared to February. The overall food index was unchanged from February to March and the food at home index fell 0.3 percent, the BLS said.

The food-at-home index hiked 8.4 percent over the last 12 months, the CPI said, while the index for food away from home rose 8.8 percent over the last year. The index for full-service meals rose a significant 8 percent over the last 12 months, and the index for limited-service meals also soared 7.9 percent.

As a result of inflation, shelf-stable seafood sales dropped 0.7 percent this March compared to March 2022, while frozen seafood sales dropped 4.4 percent and fresh seafood sales declined 2 percent.

Ambient salmon sales experienced the biggest decline of 7.6 percent while ambient tuna sales declined 1 percent.

Fresh seafood sales were hampered by an uptick of 6.2 percent in prices on salmon – the biggest seller in grocers’ fresh seafood departments. Fresh shrimp prices rose 5 percent. Not all fresh seafood saw the same price increases, however, as lobster prices declined by 11.6 percent and crab prices decreased 6.7 percent.

Sales of nearly all major fresh fish and shellfish species dropped in March. The biggest losses were in cod (down 21.9 percent), shrimp (down 13.3 percent), seafood cakes (down 12.9 percent), and lobster (down 10.7 percent).

Crab sales increased 9.5 percent, though, and salmon sales were up 2.5 percent despite the 6.2 percent price hike.

In the frozen department, salmon prices spiked 17.1 percent, while frozen pollock prices jumped 16.6 percent, according to Circana and 210 Analytics. Conversely, frozen crab prices fell 12.8 percent and frozen shrimp prices dropped by 3.4 percent.

Frozen crab sales grew 5.6 percent for the month, but frozen shrimp sales dropped 5.8 percent, frozen tilapia sales declined 7.2 percent, and frozen pollock sales fell 5.2 percent.

Almost all shoppers are concerned about price increases – 94 percent of primary shoppers are concerned about food price increases and “preparing meals at home remains one of the chief measures in addition to looking for sales specials and buying private brands,” Roerink said.

Photo courtesy of Stop & Shop 

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