US retail seafood sales expected to stabilize after rough 2023

Executive Vice President of Circana's Fresh Foods Practice Chris DuBois.

U.S. fresh and frozen seafood sales should stabilize this year after an extremely challenging 2023, retail analysts predicted at the opening plenary session of the 2024 National Fisheries Institute-hosted Global Seafood Market Conference in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. on 23 January.

In 2023, overall fresh and frozen seafood sales declined due to several overarching factors, including consumers’ reduced spending power due to inflation, subsequent depleted savings, and student debt payments for some.

Inflation reached such high levels in 2023 that consumers paid 30 percent to 35 percent more on food overall compared to 2019, 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink noted.

As a result, refrigerated finfish volume fell 3.8 percent during 2023, while value in the category declined 1.8 percent. Similarly, frozen finfish volume fell 4.2 percent, and value was down 3.1 percent. Refrigerated shellfish value, meanwhile, plummeted 5.6 percent, while its volume actually rose 0.9 percent – likely due to anomalous growth in crab sales. Frozen shellfish followed finfish’s trends, with its volume falling 2.9 percent and value declining 7.3 percent

As the year came to a close, though, consumer confidence improved due to a better inflation outlook, Roerink said. Notably, Roerink said, 93 percent of Americans believed they could splurge a little – whether on food for a special occasion, a brand they love, or a product that is more sustainable, which are all factors that bode well for seafood sales in the near future.

“Food and beverage is going to return to growth. We are seeing positive growth for seafood as well,” Executive Vice President of Circana’s Fresh Foods Practice Chris DuBois said. 

DuBois predicted potential growth of 1 percent or 2 percent in fresh seafood sales in 2024.

“That is how you get to the next generation of growth growing forward,” he said.

“Across food and beverage, that is the new [normal] growth for the next year or two to come,” Roerink echoed.

However, according to the analysts, there are also some potential bright spots that could spur sales growth further than just the predicted moderate bump, including ... 

Photo courtesy of Chris Chase/SeafoodSource

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