The more that shoppers consume seafood, the more willing they are to purchase it raw and prepare it at home, but lingering preparation trepidation may be preventing some potential buyers from approaching the fresh seafood section. Progressive Grocer asked various grocers and suppliers how they surmount this particular barrier to increased seafood sales. Many of their solutions encompassed both in-store and digital elements.
“We’ve found that the best way to support our consumers and dispel any myths around seafood is to share simple recipes, educate them on how to purchase, and articulate the differences in the wide variety of species we offer,” says Tyson Yeck, director of sales, North America at Clackamas, Ore.-based Pacific Seafood. “We communicate directly with them via our social media channels, website and email marketing efforts. During National Seafood Month (October) we launched an education campaign called Fight Fish Fright with one easy tip per day to help consumers build their confidence when it comes to purchasing and preparing seafood.”
“Our seafood experts, in-store chefs and dietitians continue to teach customers how easy seafood is to prepare,” notes Jason Pride, VP of meat/seafood at West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc. “We also have QR codes positioned on labels and adhered to packaging that direct customers to short videos that teach how easy it is to prepare that item.”
Todd Allen, senior manager, meat and seafood at West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s, explains that the grocer makes use of “knowledgeable team members at point of sale. Our team members provide product information and cooking instructions. We also offer recipes on our website and social media platforms that alleviate any fears of preparing seafood and offers tips and suggestions.”
As part of its mission to encourage the consumption of seafood at least twice a week, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Beaver Street Fisheries has developed a “focus on promoting delicious recipes for preparing all varieties of the protein,” observes Director of Marketing Bluzette Carline. “Through our website and social platforms, our corporate chefs introduce many ways to build a great plate with seafood.”
According to Victoria Parr, domestic marketing director at the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, effective ways to overcome shopper skittishness regarding seafood include partnerships with meal-kit delivery services and in-store meal kits that help introduce consumers to easy ways to cook seafood; convenient, portion-controlled frozen product; and potentially revolutionary new cooking technologies such as Instant Pot, sous vide “and the great up-and-coming RF ovens like the Dialog from Miele.”
Perhaps consumers’ fear of fish is overstated, however. While acknowledging that “[p]reparation is definitely on consumers’ minds when they buy fresh seafood,” as “it has to be cooked within a couple days of purchase,” Kyle Chamberlin, publications manager at Chicago-based market research firm Datassential, asserts: “Consumers are not intimidated by seafood in the kitchen. Around eight out of 10 consumers say that they are comfortable cooking at least a few types of fish and shellfish at home. The most common prep methods at home are baking, frying and grilling.”