Supermarket Perimeter - March 2021 - 46

Seafood

Forecast:
GROWTH
ASMI's Megan Rider on the present
and future of retail seafood
BY ANDY NELSON

Supermarket Perimeter: Is seafood a
growing category at grocery retail?᩿
Megan Rider: The seafood category at retail
has been growing steadily over the past
decade, and 2020 saw that growth jump even
higher than anticipated. For the four weeks
ending Dec. 27, 2020, frozen seafood sales
in U.S. supermarkets were up 26% and fresh
seafood was up 25% over the same period
the year prior - a trend that had remained
steady since March - according to market
research company IRI. Certain species did
exceptionally well for the year, with crab
sales in retail up 87% and frozen finfish sales
growing 33%, according to 2020 IRI and
NPD market research. The seafood industry
overall saw 7% growth in 2020, which is
pretty incredible given challenges across the
46 - MARCH 2021

foodservice sector, which were tempered by
strong retail performance.
SP: What is driving that growth?
Rider: Over the past year, more people
than ever have been cooking at home, and
they continue to look for new recipes and
experiment with new ingredients as the
pandemic continues, inspiring many to
branch out and become more comfortable
cooking seafood, especially wild, sustainable
options like Alaska seafood. Pre-pandemic
growth was driven primarily by the rise
in interest for healthy, high-protein foods,
with many Americans looking to limit
consumption of other protein sources like
red meat - 62% of consumers are trying to
increase seafood consumption more than
any other protein category, according to
Datassential. The trend toward healthier
eating has only gotten stronger in the past
year, in addition to the drastic increase in
home cooking.
SP: What role, if any, has COVID played in
seafood sales at retail?
Rider: The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely
impacted seafood sales at retail. With many
restaurants around the country closed or
offering limited service, consumers are craving
seafood, which was historically seen as a
go-to option when dining out. In fact, a July
2020 Datassential survey found that seafood
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was the second-most missed item from
restaurants since the start of the pandemic,
likely prompting the growth at retail. COVID-19
has also made consumers increasingly aware
of the source of their food, which has boded
well for wild, sustainable and domestically
sourced varieties like Alaska seafood.
SP: Is frozen growing faster than fresh, and if
so, why?
Rider: Prior to the pandemic, frozen foods
including frozen seafood had begun
experiencing a revival as consumer
perception shifted toward viewing frozen
foods as equally nutritious to their fresh
counterparts. The fact that many consumers
are opting for more frozen or shelf-stable
foods in order to help limit trips to the
grocery store continues to drive that growth.
According to IRI and 210 Analytics market
research, sales of frozen seafood from MarchOctober 2020 grew 30 percent vs. the same
period in 2019, and Nielsen data indicates
that, for every 4-week period starting in
March of 2020, frozen seafood continued to
outsell even peak seasons during previous
years. Alaska's flash freezing processes have
always been an integral part of preserving
quality through the supply chain, and
consumers have been able to consistently
find frozen and shelf-stable (e.g. canned or
smoked) wild Alaska seafood at retailers
throughout the pandemic.

FUNNY FACE, DAVID KADLEC - STOCK.ADOBE.COM

WE RECENTLY SAT DOWN (virtually) with
Megan Rider, domestic marketing director
for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
(ASMI), to get the pulse of the retail grocery
seafood market.
What we learned is that seafood - a
foodservice-only option for many consumers
before COVID - has been surging at retail,
as homebound cooks look for new things
to make.
And the best news for the seafood
industry and its retail partners? That trend
should continue even after the pandemic is
behind us.


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Supermarket Perimeter - March 2021

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