Fresh seafood prices had just a small uptick in March versus March last year across all three merchandising zones, according to Circana, 210 Analytics and Elanco.
Only fresh finfish still had lingering inflation of 5.2 percent when compared to March 2022 pricing levels. Over the latest 52 weeks, seafood prices increased 6.2 percent, which was below the rate of inflation for total food and beverages, though when looking at finfish alone, the level was much higher. Frozen and shelf-stable seafood (cans and pouches) also had relatively mild inflation.
Fresh salmon price increases dropped to 6.2 percent in March 2023 but prices were up 10.3 percent for the full-year view. Crab and lobster experienced deflation.
In frozen, price patterns for the top five sellers were very different. Salmon and pollock price increases remained in the double digits whereas frozen shrimp, crab and tilapia prices were actually down from year ago levels in March 2023.
Though lapping a full year of sales declines, fresh, frozen and shelf-stable sales continued their struggle to keep up with prior year levels. It is important to keep in mind that the timing of Easter between 2022 and 2023 was off by one week. Dollar wise, losses were fairly minimal, especially for shelf-stable and fresh, but in volume losses averaged between 4-7 percent.
Ambient seafood sales had been in positive growth territory since the fourth quarter of 2021. Growth peaked in the second quarter of 2022 and fell below year-ago levels in March. Canned seafood had among the highest growth rates in March 2020 with triple-digit gains when compared to March 2019.
In March 2023, fresh seafood generated $621 million in sales and the entire year brought in $6.5 billion. Shellfish and finfish continued to have vastly different performances in the 52-week period, but in March, the performances were similar. Deflationary conditions in shellfish kept pounds at similar levels as seen in March 2022, whereas continued (though mild) price increases in finfish caused a bit more volume pressure here.
The five March weeks showed consistent seafood sales, ranging from $130 million during the first week of March to $119 million the end of March.
Assortment, expressed in the average number of items per store, is still down a little, but in the grand scheme of things, has not changed over the past few years.
The total frozen food department reached $7.1 billion in sales in the five March weeks, up 6.8 percent versus last year. Whereas processed meat/poultry had dollar and unit gains, meat/poultry and seafood experienced sales pressure.
By type, frozen shellfish (predominantly raw and cooked shrimp) was the largest seller in March at $414 million. Dollar sales were down year-on-year, whereas pound sales grew. Frozen finfish, at $278 million, experienced sales declines both in dollars and pounds.
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