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Inflation Raises Seafood Prices, Dampens Consumption After Record Pandemic Sales

FMI’s 'Power of Seafood 2023' offers in-depth look at consumers’ buying patterns
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Fresh seafood sales dropped to $6.5 billion in 2022 from $7.1 billion in 2021, according to FMI's "Power of Seafood 2023" report.

According to FMI – The Food Industry Association’s newly released “Power of Seafood  2023” report, seafood department sales came to $16.2 billion last year, a 3.8% drop from 2021 as inflation pushed up prices of fresh and frozen seafood. This sales decline reversed an upward trend that led to record sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic, although seafood sales were still higher in 2022 than in 2019, caused partly by shoppers’ desire to both eat healthfully and add more eco-friendly options to their diets.

“Inflationary price increases certainly had a negative impact on the sale and consumption of seafood in 2022, with many shoppers turning to more affordable proteins as they adjusted their spending habits to the economic environment,” affirmed Rick Stein, VP for fresh foods at Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “However, seafood sales were up compared to 2019 despite elevated prices, indicating that shoppers who became more comfortable cooking seafood during the pandemic continue to appreciate the health benefits of preparing seafood at home. Given shoppers’ increasing interest in health and well-being, adding more variety to their diet, and eating more sustainable foods in general, we expect the category to rebound once inflationary pressures ease.”

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Additional key findings of FMI’s fifth examination seafood consumption and buying habits include:

  • Fresh seafood sales dropped to $6.5 billion in 2022 from $7.1 billion in 2021. Frozen seafood sales, which were lower than fresh in 2019, began outpacing fresh seafood sales in 2020, but also fell in 2022, to $7.1 billion, a 2.8% decline from the previous year.
  • 53% of shoppers are frequent (two or more times a week) or occasional (once a month to one time a week) seafood consumers, down from 59% in 2021, with 55% of these consumers cooking seafood more often and 47% more comfortable doing so since the pandemic. Those choosing to eat seafood frequently said that nutrition and health (81%) are the main, or an important, reason for doing so.
  • Poultry, meat and pork are still top consumer protein preferences, with shoppers buying them more than twice as often as seafood. When respondents were asked to choose protein options if all prices were the same, 25% said that they would choose seafood over other protein types; however, still more shoppers would choose chicken (32%) or beef (33%) if protein prices were the same.  
  • More than half (53%) of consumers prepare and eat most of their seafood at home, with 13% buying seafood partly or fully prepared at the grocery store, while 14% buy restaurant takeout to eat at home, and 20% order seafood while eating at a restaurant.
  • Seafood consumers increasingly prefer farm-raised (20%) and wild-caught (45%) options, but many aren’t clear on what those terms mean: 43% either partly understand or aren’t sure what “wild-caught” means, 51% are don’t know what “farm-raised” means and 71% don’t understand the term “aquaculture.”

Conducted by FMI, the “Power of Seafood  2023” report was made possible by Alaska Seafood, Cargill and Riverence

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