Fresh Seafood Trends:<br />PG Annual Survey Finds Seafood Sales Come Ashore

The tide is finally turning for favorable seafood category sales, which rose 10 percent in the past year among Progressive Grocer’s annual Seafood Operations Review participants, according to the latest findings of exclusive research compiled in PG’s 2010 Annual Seafood Operations Review.

As the only retail seafood study of its kind in the marketplace, PG’s annual “state of the seafood case” is based on the direct input of a senior meat and seafood officials surveyed from around the country who have “sole” responsibility for category procurement decisions for their supermarket(s).

In a year when seafood sales appear to have finally come ashore in supermarkets, the impressive 10 percent net increase in overall department sales for 2009 was favorably affected by a convergent movement of more nutrition- and health-conscious shoppers, who are making their presence known at retail seafood counters and self-serve cases.

Forty-seven percent of our seafood survey respondents reported increased seafood sales during 2009, which represents a healthy jump from last year’s study. Conversely, the level of retail seafood survey participants who reported sales decreases declined to 17 percent, with the remaining 36 percent estimating that their seafood sales remained unchanged from the previous year — perhaps reflective of an ongoing reluctance to showcase seafood more prominently, in view of the high-shrink/labor-intensive nature of the category.

While several controversial seafood-related issues continue to loom large in certain circles, a number of leading supermarkets are making major strides to lure more shoppers to the department with more robust commitments to sustainable sourcing policies, aggressive features and enhanced consumer outreach. Further, for retailers that remain steadfast in maximizing the promising trend that finds more consumers committed to incorporating healthier choices into their diets, seafood continues as one of the highest-potential growth categories in the store — particularly when promoted by a knowledgeable, credible frontline staff, with corresponding trustworthy outreach made available free of charge by many of the industry’s leading seafood agencies.

Same-store seafood sales also made promising inroads in the past year among nearly half of all of the study’s respondents, while a much smaller percentage (23 percent) said their comp seafood sales declined, with the balance (30 percent) logging status quo seafood department sales during the last year.

Seafood profits are also higher among 37 percent of this year’s survey respondents, further solidifying the gains the category has made in the past 12 months. Nevertheless, 43 percent of respondents reported seafood profit declines, while the remaining 20 percent said their seafood margins declined.

This year’s Seafood Operations Review’s findings that 40 percent of supermarkets offer full-service seafood cases aptly reflects the industry average that some, but not all supermarkets, use the section as a supplemental destination department.

In a rundown of foremost operational concerns, retail seafood buyers, when asked to rank the seriousness of various issues on a scale of 1 to 6, pinpointed “Attracting more shoppers to the … department” as the top challenge. A telling sign of the times was further revealed by second-ranked environmental/social issues, paced closely by grocers’ perennial point of apprehension, competition. Seafood sourcing placed as the fourth top consideration, while imports rounded out the list of top headache-inducers among seafood survey respondents.

PG’s complete 2010 Seafood Operations Review is available in our March 2010 issue. For more information, visit our Web site at
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