- Seafood, whether it’s fresh, frozen or grocery, generates almost $12 billion in sales for retailers, according to the Food Marketing Institute's latest Power of Seafood report. Although this number is significantly less than fresh meat ($50 billion) or produce ($60 billion), there's an opportunity for retailers to boost sales and secure loyalty from valuable seafood shoppers, the report says. When consumers buy seafood, the size of their basket is triple the average, FMI reports.
- Only 21% of Americans classify themselves as frequent seafood consumers and 35% reported eating seafood once a month but not as much as twice a week, which is the consumption recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to FMI. Shrimp, salmon and tuna account for about 60% of total seafood revenue.
- Seafood consumers tend to shop around to find the best seafood options more than meat and poultry shoppers. They are also less likely to purchase seafood in their primary grocery stores and more likely to buy based on quality than price, FMI notes.
With so much attention focused on boosting meat and produce sales these days, retailers tend to overlook seafood. According to FMI’s Power of Seafood report, the number of shoppers consuming seafood is relatively low compared to those other departments. So why should retailers invest in it?
The report notes that seafood customers are often more affluent than other shoppers, making sales of shrimp, salmon and other fresh catches crucial to securing their loyalty. There seems to be an opportunity to boost sales with these shoppers, with one-third of those surveyed by FMI reporting they like to shop for a variety of seafood options. Additionally, 29% of seafood shoppers who said they tend to buy the same selections every time they shop said they would be open to new options if someone advised them. This points to the importance of staffing seafood departments with knowledgeable, experienced workers.
Boosting the in-store experience is a crucial step for retailers. FMI’s report explains that although seafood consumers are more likely to shop online for groceries, only 12% say they've purchased seafood through the digital channel — reflecting a desire to see before they buy. By comparison, 19% of meat consumers say they've purchased fresh meat online, according to FMI's recently released Power of Meat report.
Despite a paucity of purchases, online offers an important outlet to educate and interact with shoppers, FMI suggests. Retailers can use their websites to outline their seafood standards, profile suppliers and more.
When it comes to sustainability, FMI notes there's been a lot of press and vocal consumers pushing retailers like Target, Hy-Vee and Whole Foods to focus more on eco-friendly, renewable sourcing methods. The overall influence of sustainability pales in comparison to price promotions and merchandising, but FMI reports that sustainability tends to be very important to core seafood consumers, making it a worthwhile investment.
Online seafood sales stand to increase as retailers make online shopping cheaper and more widely available. For example, the Fulton Fish Market, a local and famous New York City-based fish market, now offers same-day delivery through Walmart’s Jet.com in the city. Other retailers may also add seafood e-commerce offerings as they jockey for consumer dollars.
Considering seafood customers report shopping across multiple retailers and formats to fill their needs, grocers will have to work hard to win their business. An average basket size reaches $95 when seafood is included, the report found, so the payoff can be considerable with these affluent consumers spending more in the department and throughout the rest of the store.