Last year, frozen seafood sales grew 35%—an unprecedented rate.1 As more consumers cooked and ate at home, they fell in love with Alaska seafood, enjoying the taste, variety and multiple health benefits seafood offers.2
With new and experienced cooks excited to explore pollock, salmon, crab and other species, grocers can seize this opportunity and introduce new ways consumers can enjoy Alaska seafood, by cooking it directly from its frozen state.
Consumers enjoy seafood—when they plan ahead
Even though consumers enjoy Alaska seafood, they don’t usually eat it the day they get it from the grocery store. Instead, they buy it frozen, with plans to cook it later in the week. This is possible because, within hours of coming out of the water, Alaska seafood is flash frozen to capture the pristine quality of seafood at the peak of its freshness. “We call this frozen-fresh quality,” explains Monica George, head of retail marketing for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “This allows the frozen seafood to keep its fresh-caught flavor, delicate texture and packed nutrient content that consumers expect.”
Defrosting fish in a microwave can alter the texture, so most home cooks make time for the fish to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. That’s great when consumers have time to plan ahead, but since 30% of consumers make their meals spontaneously, seafood often is left off of the list of last-minute menu ideas.3
Cook it Frozen®—a tasty spin for preparing seafood quickly
Today’s customers are filling their freezers with seafood like never before and are cooking from home in unprecedented amounts, says George. Frozen seafood is a great answer for the cooking fatigue that has set in.
And there’s good news: it isn’t necessary to defrost frozen seafood before cooking it. Alaska seafood can be prepared right from the freezer using simple, familiar methods like baking, roasting, searing, pressure cooking and air frying. Consumers can enjoy a delicious Instant Pot Alaska Salmon Farro Bowl or whip up a quick meal of Air-Fried Alaska Salmon with Israeli Couscous Salad with little prep or planning.
“Pulling it out of the freezer at the last minute and cooking a quick and easy meal for your family is completely doable with Cook It Frozen (CIF), ” she says.
The technique is simple; no thawing required. Take the Alaska seafood from the freezer, briefly run it under cold water, and begin roasting, grilling, air frying, steaming or pressure cooking. Halfway through cooking, season the dish and resume cooking.
Choosing which type of Alaska seafood to cook from frozen is also simple, says George. “CIF works well for any of our species of fish. That includes any of our five types of salmon (king, sockeye, coho, keta, pink) and the variety of whitefish coming out of Alaska’s waters—including pollock, cod, halibut, rockfish, sole/flounder and sablefish.” Cooking times should be adjusted depending on the species and cooking method, George adds.
Although the CIF technique may be new to some consumers, many are hungry to try it. According to Datassential research, 82% of shoppers would likely try cooking fish while it’s still frozen.4 Fortunately, ASMI makes it easy to try the CIF technique by offering many new 30-second how-to videos and recipes that help consumers cook delicious seafood from Alaska with no thawing required. Instead of waiting a day or more, a cook can prepare a meal in minutes with little planning.
Why grocers love seafood for building baskets
Just as consumers love eating seafood, grocers are eager to sell it. The grocery retailer, Albertsons Companies INC., introduced Cook It Frozen as a tried-and-true technique that accommodated shoppers’ busy schedules, says Anthony Snow, seafood director, Albertsons Companies INC. “It offers shoppers wild-caught, sustainable seafood, sourced from Alaska, year-round that is simple to prepare,” he says. The company incorporated cook-from-frozen instructions on the packaging of a number of its own branded seafood items under the Waterfront Bistro and Open Nature labels to provide added convenience.
Cook it Frozen is also a win in terms of waste, Snow adds. “All too often, customers thaw frozen fish for the next day and life happens – they discover it in the refrigerator days later, too late to use,” he says.
Promoting seafood is smart business financially, George says. When consumers buy seafood, their average basket size is $98, almost three times the average basket for groceries.5 With the heightened consumer interest in seafood, grocers can increase profits by encouraging seafood consumption year-round, she adds. “By promoting seafood, grocers also build trust with consumers who are looking for immunity-boosting, delicious foods.”
Grocers can spread awareness of the CIF technique through online cooking demos and classes with corporate chefs and dietitians and promotions on their social media platforms, says George.
ASMI shares ideas on how grocers can get the word out, including 30-second how-to videos, on-trend recipe ideas and POS materials, all of which are available for retailers to use. ASMI has also promoted the technique with Serious Eats to steer shoppers to purchase all the ingredients to make a quick and easy meal, she adds.
By promoting the Cook It Frozen technique to consumers, grocers can help drive seafood purchases and increase basket sizes while ensuring shoppers can enjoy delicious Alaska seafood whenever they want. Visit the ASMI website for additional Cook It Frozen recipes.
1 “US Retailers Notched Record Seafood Sales in 2020.” Seafood Source, 2021, www.seafoodsource.com/news/foodservice-retail/us-retailers-notched-record-seafood-sales-in-2020.
2 “Appendix E-2.38 | Health.Gov.” Health.Gov, 2015, health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015/advisory-report/appendix-e-2/appendix-e-238
3 Statista. “Consumer Behavior Regarding Planning Meals Ahead United States 2019.” Statista, 25 Nov. 2020, www.statista.com/statistics/1112740/meal-planning-consumer-attitudes-united-states
4 “A Look at Today’s Seafood Consumers.” Progressive Grocer, 2020, progressivegrocer.com/ASMI_todays_seafood_customers_what_they_want
5 Severino, Steven. “The Power of Seafood: A Second In-Depth Look at Seafood Through the Shopper’s Eyes.” Www.Fmi.Org, 2020, www.fmi.org.