The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has issued its inaugural “The Power of Seafood” report, which reveals valuable shopper insights regarding the category, including the key information that quality, taste and freshness are more important than price for seafood consumers, many of whom shop at more than one venue for seafood items.
A presentation of the report’s results is slated for Tuesday, March 19 during the final day of Seafood Expo North America (SENA) in Boston, with Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods at Arlington, Va.-based FMI; Guy Pizzuti, seafood category manager at Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix; Megan Rider, interim domestic marketing director at Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI); and David Weir, seafood buyer/category manager at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer.
“The consumption of seafood by consumers in the U.S. falls significantly behind poultry, meat and pork, with consumption around 16 pounds per year, compared to more than 100 pounds of other animal proteins,” said Stein. “In fact, 44 percent of adults are not even frequent or occasional seafood consumers, eating seafood less than once per month. The food retail industry has an opportunity to educate consumers on how to buy, cook and prepare seafood to help shoppers increase their consumption.”
Following are some of the top-line findings of the report:
While seafood doesn’t generate the same volume of sales as fresh meat ($50 billion) or produce ($60 billion), it does attract a lucrative and affluent customer base and can positively affect perceptions of a food retailer. Fresh, frozen and shelf-stable seafood generates nearly $12 billion in sales for food retailers. When asked how often they eat seafood, however, just 21 percent could be classified as frequent seafood consumers, which is defined as eating seafood at least two times per week as recommended by the USDA.
Seafood consumers divide their seafood purchases nearly equally between fresh and frozen. Further, seafood shoppers are as likely to buy fresh seafood from the self-service case as they are from the seafood counter. Shrimp, salmon and tuna generate the most in food retail units/pounds sold, with these three accounting for around 60 percent of total seafood revenue.
While most seafood consumers say their primary seafood store is the same as their primary grocery store, 31 percent identify a store other than their primary grocery store as their primary store for seafood, a considerably higher percentage than for meat or poultry. Beside their primary seafood store, additional places where consumers shop for seafood include other supermarkets, supercenters or club stores, as well as such specialty options as seafood stores, farmers’ markets, seafood markets/mongers/stands, or natural/organic stores. Seafood purchasers overwhelmingly preferred not to purchase seafood online, however.
Although some consumers buy seafood when it’s on sale, they’re more likely to buy based on quality. Product quality ranked highest among 10 factors for influencing the seafood purchase decision, with freshness, taste or flavor, and the type or species also of high importance. Price is part of the purchase equation, but it’s less important than for meat and poultry.
Few seafood consumers consider themselves knowledgeable about choosing or preparing seafood, and admit that they want to know more about them. Additionally, many non-seafood consumers want more knowledge about seafood.
Only about two-thirds of seafood consumers buy seafood from a store’s seafood counter, although their experiences have been mixed. Meanwhile, most seafood consumers who don’t have a seafood counter in their store would like their store to have one. Consumers want freshness and quality information mentioned frequently by counter staff, along with information about sourcing, catching, selection, nutritional benefits and preparation.
Grocers can increase seafood consumption by focusing on upping consumption among frequent seafood consumers, working to get occasional seafood consumers to eat seafood the recommended two times a week, or tying to convert non-seafood consumers, the biggest segment of consumers, although that might prove difficult. Further, grocers can hold point-of-sale events, such as sampling and in-store demonstrations, to spur trial.
The vast majority of seafood and non-seafood consumers say they make an effort to select nutritious and healthy food options, although seafood consumers are more likely than non-seafood consumers to make an effort to do so. Sustainability of food options or seafood specifically is a concern for a relatively small, but occasionally vocal, segment of consumers, however, and only minority of seafood consumers make an effort to purchase sustainable seafood selections. Seafood and non-seafood consumers alike have highly limited familiarity with the various seafood certifications and standards.
“The Power of Seafood” couples consumer research with data from Nielsen and IRI to offer a robust view of the shopper’s wants and desires in relation to seafood at retail.
Co-located with Seafood Processing North America, SENA is North America’s largest seafood trade event, drawing more than 22,000 seafood professionals from more than 110 countries and 1,300-plus exhibiting companies. The event is produced by Portland, Maine-based Diversified Communications.