High inflation, continued supply chain challenges and fluctuating restaurant engagement resulted in another year of record food and beverage sales, reaching $753 billion in 2022. However, unit sales dropped for the second year in a row but remained ahead of 2019. Unlike volume, units are measured consistent across all categories.
According to IRI, 210 Analytics and Elanco, seafood experienced two very strong years, but the department saw dollar and pound declines in 2022. Pounds declined under 15 percent and fell below 2019 levels. Dollar sales declined a little more than 8 percent and fell below 2020 levels but remained ahead of the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
Fresh seafood prices declined in December versus the last month of 2021. Through 2022, seafood prices increased 7.9 percent, which was far below the rate of inflation for total food and beverages. Only frozen seafood prices rose above the total store level of inflation. Shelf-stable seafood prices, which includes cans and pouches, had a double-digit increase over year ago levels in December.
Fresh salmon price increases are starting to moderate but were up 11.1 percent for the year. Crab and lobster experienced deflation. Inflation among the top five sellers was highest for cod.
Frozen seafood sales continued to outperform fresh in December. While dollars were down for both, the decline was less for frozen, resulting in higher sales of $590 million. However, inflation is a big part of the story, with units down 8.3 percent year-on-year for frozen seafood and 5.7 percent for fresh. Only shelf-stable seafood (canned and pouches) increased dollar sales by 8.9 percent and had fairly minimal dollar and volume declines.
In December, fresh seafood generated $522 million in sales and the entire calendar year hauled in $6.5 billion. Despite the rate of inflation moderating, units and volume demand did not rebound to prior year levels. In 2022, finfish had a slight dollar gain, but both finfish and shellfish were down in dollars and pounds.
Fresh seafood declines bottomed out in the second quarter of 2022. While still down year-on-year, the fourth quarter performance is better.
The market leader, salmon, had a good December, though pound sales were down year-on-year. Otherwise, only a number of smaller sellers, tilapia was the only other species with dollar growth. Crab was the only one to generate pound growth, but deflation is keeping dollars down year-on-year.
The total frozen food department reached $5.8 billion in sales in the four December weeks, up 12 percent versus last year. Whereas meat/poultry and processed meat/poultry had dollar gains, seafood lost ground.
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