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August Is Tough Month For Seafood Sales At Retail

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Fresh and frozen seafood prices were lower this August than last, according to Circana, 210 Analytics and Elanco.

Fresh shellfish had the deepest cuts in price, but all areas show very favorable conditions to consumers in August and improvements over the latest 52-week look.

Inflation in powerhouse salmon has come down substantially. In August, prices were 0.7 percent above August 2022 levels. Shrimp prices at retail are also starting to mirror the trends at wholesale more and more. Crab prices remained far below year-ago levels, whereas lobster prices increased.  

In the frozen food aisle, the average price per pound for shrimp decreased by 7.8 percent whereas salmon prices were down 1.9 percent from August 2022. In the 52-week view, salmon prices still reflected substantial inflation, especially when comparing the average price per pound to three years ago, an increase of 41.9 percent.  

Despite favorable price conditions, both fresh and frozen seafood continued to experience year-over-year volume declines in August 2023. Only shelf-stable seafood increased on dollars and pounds in both the shorter- and longer-term views. 

Ambient seafood 

In August 2023, ambient tuna in cans and pouches reached $205 million in sales, which reflected an improvement of 2.0 percent over August 2022. The improvement was driven by canned tuna, which represents the vast majority of dollars.

Fresh seafood 

In August, fresh seafood generated $595 million in sales and the entire year brought in $6.4 billion. Finfish was the bigger seller but saw both dollars and pounds decrease over August 2022 levels.

August also meant a change in course for shellfish volume that dropped below year-ago levels after a strong performance in the first and second quarters of the year. The above-average engagement with restaurants in the month of August could be the underlying trend for the more subdued performances for both finfish and shellfish. Additionally, August is the only summer month that does not have a notable national holiday, unlike June, July and September.  

Absent of holiday-related spikes, weekly sales in August were all very similar. Weekly dollar sales ranged from $112 million to $126 million. Compared to year-ago levels, sales were down each week for both dollars and pounds.

Top species

Sales across the top eight fresh seafood species were very inconsistent in August. Market leader salmon generated more than twice the sales of the No. 2 crab.

Crab continued to move more volume, but the additional pounds were unable to offset the gap created by the deflationary conditions.

Frozen seafood sales 

The total frozen food department reached $7.2 billion in sales in the five August weeks, up 0.3 percent versus last year. Whereas processed meat/poultry had dollar and unit gains, meat/poultry and seafood experienced declines.

By type, frozen shellfish (predominantly raw and cooked shrimp) was the largest seller in August at $364 million. Despite growth in pound sales for frozen shellfish and finfish, all areas experienced year-on-year declines in dollar sales. All other seafood includes items such as seafood cakes, seafood salads, dips and sauces.

Top five frozen species

Shrimp are the frozen seafood powerhouse, with sales of $3.5 billion in the latest 52 weeks. However, shrimp sales dropped in both dollars and volume in the short- and longer-term time periods. Salmon, while the dominant species in fresh, is the second-largest seller in frozen — showing strong August sales.

Read more seafood news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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