Haddock broadline sales up, prices likely to rise

Haddock, a species that for decades has largely been popular in New England and the Middle Atlantic, is starting to proliferate down the U.S. East Coast, according to the latest data. 

Broadline sales of haddock increased in nearly every U.S. market between 2016 and 2018. At the low end, sales in the “East North Central” area stayed relatively flat, while sales in the West South Central region of the U.S. (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) increased by 92 percent. 

Broadline sales everywhere else increased too: Middle Atlantic by seven percent, South Atlantic by 21 percent, Mountain-Pacific by 44 percent, West North Central by 49 percent, and East South Central by 48 percent. 

“It’s amazing to me how much more haddock we’re selling in Florida than we used to,” Michael Holley, the commodity procurement manager of seafood for US Foods Inc., said during the value finfish panel at the 2019 Global Seafood Market Conference in Coronado, California, U.S.A. on 15 January.

Holley credited higher sales on the East Coast to former New England residents moving further south. 

“People get old, they want to travel south during the winter months,” Holley said. “They’re bringing that fish with them, they’re asking their restauranteurs for that fish.”

Broadline sales of haddock went from 13.5 million pounds in the period between October 2015 and September 2016 to 17.2 million pounds in the period between October 2017 and September 2018. 

Those sales weren’t isolated to just one type of restaurant, either. While smaller and medium chain restaurants saw slight declines over the previous year, independent restaurant usage of haddock increased by 8 percent, small chain usage increased by 51 percent, and large commercial chains (restaurants with 250 units or more) increased by 189 percent. 

Holley attributed that increase to customers being more knowledgeable about whitefish, and differentiating between species like cod, mahi, and haddock. 

While the demand for haddock has increased somewhat in the restaurant scene, catches of the fish have remained relatively stable at just over 300,000 metric tons. Over half of that catch came from Norway and Russia, with projected catches in 2019 to remain roughly the same as previous years. That could lead to price increases, as supplies are tight. 

“We’re seeing a tight situation. There’s not big inventories on the raw material side in the pipeline,” Frank Bodin, vice president of the Nordic Group, said. 

That aqueeze could be lessened in the coming months as Norway and Russia begin to fish in the first few months of 2019. 

“For the Russians and the Norwegians in the Atlantic cod and haddock fishery, they take about 66 percent of their quota in the first four months of the year,” Todd Clark, a partner with Endeavor Seafood, said. 

Speculation on supply is also affected by the potential for haddock to be hit by higher tariffs. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump delayed the imposition of 25 percent tariffs on goods from China until March, and if a trade deal isn’t reached by that time – or if the tariffs aren’t delayed once more – haddock processed in China will jump in price. That tariff could put haddock prices closer to cod prices. 

“That story is, what will demand be at these higher pricing levels?” Mike Kocsis, vice president of strategic initiatives for High Liner Foods, said. With cod and haddock prices shaking out to be similar, demand for the products could shift. 

“I think this will be a year that tests the consumer on cod and haddock, based on what we’re seeing,” Kocsis said.


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