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IRI Report Shows Frozen Seafood Gained While Fresh Struggled

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 To document the ever-changing nature of the marketplace, IRI, 210 Analytics and Elanco have teamed up to bring the latest trends and analysis about seafood sales at retail, including fresh, frozen and shelf-stable.

Seafood experienced above-average inflation. Fresh seafood prices per-unit were up an average of 13.5 percent in April 2022 versus year ago, even more than the 12.1 percent in March. The average price for finfish jumped to over $10 per unit, up 20.9 percent versus April 2021. Price increases were much lower in fresh shellfish, at 2.3 percent on a per unit basis. This compressed dollar growth, as seen later.

Seafood prices may spike further amid Russian sanctions, with particular impact on crab, cod and Alaskan pollock prices, the latter used in frozen fish sticks and fast-food sandwiches. According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, Russia is the fifth-largest producer of wild-caught fish and the world leader in cod exports. 

April 2022 seafood across the store 

Frozen seafood dollar sales were higher than fresh seafood in April 2022, at $566 million versus $493 million, respectively. This was due to a 11.8 percent decline for fresh seafood when comparing April 2022 dollar sales to year ago levels. In contrast, frozen seafood dollars grew 2.8 percent and shelf-stable (canned and pouches) increased 10.9 percent, along with increases in unit and volume sales.

Shelf-stable seafood sales have been a rollercoaster ride for the last two years. In April 2020, very early on in the pandemic, sales achieved incredible peaks as stock up behavior and uncertainty about supply during the early days of COVID-19 sparked demand. That proved to be impossible to lap come the first quarter of 2021 and sales dropped by 23.5 percent. However, come April 2022 with cost-saving measures top of mind, sales once more trended in positive territory. Dollar sales were also 10.7 percent higher than they were in April 2019.

During the four April 2022 weeks, ambient seafood in cans and pouches reached $223 million in sales, which was unchanged from the elevated $222 million in March. It was also a significant year-on-year increase of 9.6 percent, hand-in-hand with unit and volume increases. The bulk of sales were generated by tuna.

During the four April weeks, dollar sales for fresh seafood reached $493 million, down from $505 million in March. Year-on-year, fresh seafood sales declined 11.8 percent, an acceleration of the 10.3 percent seen last month. While dollar sales remained above 2019 pre-pandemic levels, volume is now trailing the 2019 levels. This is especially true for shellfish, for which pounds are 11.6 percent behind April 2019 levels.

Each of the four April weeks generated between $110 million and $136 million. Easter week, the week ending April 17th had the highest sales. This was also the only week when sales popped above year ago levels. The first week of April went up against the 2021 Easter timing, which explains the 24.6 percent decline. In comparison to 2019, dollars are still tracking ahead.  

Assortment and inventory seemed to be one of the culprits of the recent declines in sales. Departments across the store are dealing with out-of-stocks and SKU reduction amid significant supply chain disruption and constraints. In fresh seafood, shellfish assortment was down 8.4 percent from last year’s April levels. This means a smaller number of items need to work harder to achieve the same level of sales.  

There were a few bright spots in an overall tough month for fresh seafood. Salmon once more was the biggest seller and managed 8.5 percent growth in dollars. The setback in volume sales was far-below average, at 7 percent. In comparison to the double-digit declines for crab, shrimp, lobster, catfish, tilapia and seafood cakes, salmon’s performance was solid. Two areas gained in pounds, being seafood salads and smoked salmon. 

By type, frozen fish was the largest subcategory in April 2022, at $566 million. While volume was down year-on-year, the declines were far less pronounced than those in fresh seafood. 

For more information, visit iriworldwide.com.

To read IRI’s report on meat sales from The Shelby Report, click here.

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