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Retail Report: Crustacean woes

Sales drop 14 percent, average retail price up 16.7 percent

November 05, 2011

Crustaceans, comprising crabmeat, crabs, crawfish/crayfish and lobsters, faced supply hurdles presented by both Mother Nature and manmade disasters in recent years. Most recently, Hurricane Irene closed many harvest areas on the East Coast, and thus crustacean sales at stable stores have been variable. Weekly sales reached a five-year low in 2008, at $674 dollars per store, followed by the five-year high in 2009. Crustacean sales in 2009 increased 19.5 percent to $838 per week per store from 2008, but decreased again in 2010 to $777.

The downward sales trend has continued in the most recent 52 weeks ending July 30, 2011. Weekly supermarket sales of crustaceans per store decreased 14.1 percent in the United States, while the seafood department as a whole decreased 1.6 percent.

Crustaceans accounted for 11.7 percent of seafood department sales during the latest 52 weeks. Crabs accounted for the majority of the category’s dollar sales with a 48.6 percent dollar share nationally. The average retail price of crustaceans increased 16.7 percent in the latest 52 weeks, which helped drive total seafood department average retail prices up 5.6 percent.

Nationally, crustaceans averaged weekly sales of $728 per store. Sales peaked the week of Jan. 1, 2011, at $1,992 per store. Lobster and crab drove this peak, with $935 and $807 in per-store sales, respectively. These luxury items are key species for New Year’s holiday parties. On the other side of the spectrum, the category’s lowest sales occurred the week of Halloween 2010, with sales of $418 per store.

The East region had the highest average weekly crustacean dollar sales with $1,264 per store, nearly double the national average. All other regions fell below the national average, with the West posting the lowest weekly sales of $479 per store. Crustacean sales in the West decreased the most, from $642 to $479 per store, which was a 25.3 percent decrease.

Crustaceans in the South and East regions contributed the most to seafood department sales, with respective contributions of 13.1 percent and 12.7 percent. In the Central region, the category had the lowest contribution, to the seafood department, 8.9 percent, due in part to less availability of fresh seafood. The South region dominated crawfish/crayfish sales with 93.5 percent of U.S. sales in the latest 52 weeks. The East region had the largest share of lobster, accounting for 48.2 percent of dollar sales.

This sales review is provided by Perishables Group, an independent consulting firm in Chicago focused on innovation and creating value for clients in the fresh food industry. Reported results are for the 52 weeks ending July 30, 2011. Results were compiled from grocery stores nationwide, representing 63 percent of national supermarket ACV share. Sales data provided by Perishables Group FreshFacts® powered by Nielsen.

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