US retail sector seafood sales fall as inflation continues to bite


Sales of fresh and frozen seafood at U.S. grocery stores continued to decline in May, primarily due to category and store-wide inflation. However, sales of shelf-stable seafood have continued to rise, according to new data from IRI and 210 Analytics.

Sales of fresh seafood fell by 13.2% in value to 618 million USD (593 million EUR), while sales in volume fell by 22% compared to May 2021. Frozen seafood sales fell 5.6% to 643 million USD (617 million EUR) during the month, while volume sales fell 14.6%.

The only seafood category that saw a sales gain was shelf-stable seafood, whose sales rose 7.8% to $251.4 million (€241 million). Seafood at room temperature sales volume increased 1% year-over-year in the month.

The average price of fish jumped 20% year-on-year in May 2022 to reach 9.65 USD (9.26 EUR) per unit. Frozen seafood prices rose 10.8% to $10.41 (EUR10) per unit on average, while stable seafood prices rose 9.4% to $2.08 USD (2.00 EUR) per unit on average. Average shellfish prices increased by 1 percent to 8.45 USD (8.11 EUR) per unit.

Besides inflation, a shortage of inventory and a resulting lack of product assortments are also contributing to the drop in sales, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, director of 210 Analytics. The average number of unique item codes sold per store fell 4.6% for fresh fish and 8.7% for fresh shellfish in May.

“Store departments are facing stock-outs and SKU reductions amid significant supply chain disruptions and constraints,” Roerink said. “That means fewer items have to work harder to achieve the same level of sales.”

The species whose fresh seafood sales fell the most were crab (35.4%), lobster (30.8%), shrimp (19.3%), seafood patties (14 .8%), tilapia (14.3%) and seafood salads (12.8%).

In the United States, average prices are increasing across the grocery store. Headline inflation hit 8.6% for the 12 months ending in May, the biggest year-over-year increase since December 1981, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index Summary, and food prices have risen 10% over the past year, with the biggest increase being food-to-home inflation, up 11.9%. Out-of-home food inflation rose 7.4%.

Consumer worries about inflation are “escalating every month,” Roerink said, and their attitudes toward grocery shopping are changing accordingly. In May, 95% of US consumers were concerned about rising prices, and 48% were very concerned, according to the May Consumer IRI Survey. Ninety-two percent of US consumers were concerned about rising gasoline prices, with 55% being extremely worried, compared to 23% of consumers who were extremely concerned about COVID-19 in May 2022.

According to the survey, 30% of U.S. households struggle to afford the groceries they need and 77% of U.S. shoppers chose differently when shopping in May.

In response to rising prices, 20% of US consumers have started stocking up on certain items for fear that their cost will rise in the future. Sixteen percent of respondents buy in bulk because they fear the products will not be available in the future. This phenomenon puts additional pressure on stock conditions, according to Roerink.

Other popular cost-saving measures include cutting back on non-essential products (36%), finding coupons (28%), buying more private labels (24%), and buying less. items (23%).

Another tactic is to make a list and stick to it, according to 39% of shoppers, which tends to impact items with momentum.[-buying] kind,” she says.

Forty-five percent of consumers look for promotions, although 55 percent said fewer items they want are on sale, according to IRI’s May survey of shoppers. Of those surveyed, 42% said they felt items they bought regularly didn’t get as many discounts, according to the survey.

“It makes the inflationary pressure worse,” Roerink said. “Creative approaches such as shorter sales and cross-category promotions could be a much-needed response.”

The survey found that 19% of Americans shopped at value-oriented retailers, including dollar stores, ALDI, Lidl and others, in May.

“Changing stores is usually one of the very last actions consumers take, but this time it’s already in the mix. It’s a telltale sign of the level of consumer concern and the real pressure on revenues in light of high gasoline prices,” Roerink said.

The war in Ukraine, new COVID shutdowns in China, record inflation, labor shortages and supply chain challenges are expected to have a continued impact on food and food sales in the coming months, Roerink said.

However, with 90% of consumers saying they will cook from scratch as much (74%) or more often (16%) than last year, seafood sellers can target this market as a way to increase sales, Roerink said. And the survey found that 13% of U.S. consumers expect to meet more in person with friends and family, giving seafood sellers another opportunity to reach an eager market, said Roerink.

Photo courtesy of Colleen Michaels/Shutterstock


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