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Retail Report: Department sales inch upward

Prepared seafood accounts for greatest gains

March 05, 2011

In 2010, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill created consumer uncertainty about food safety and drove seafood prices upwards. Despite this hardship, supermarket seafood sales  remained afloat, increasing 0.7 percent last year. This growth was on trend with the past five years, when sales grew every year between 2005 and 2009, with the exception of 2008.

Like in past years, seafood sales in 2010 were strongest during the weeks of the winter holiday season, as well as during Lent. Additionally, each category in the seafood department followed similar weekly trends. 

Historically, the fresh seafood category has been the largest in sales and share, and 2010 was no exception. Encompassing all finfish, shrimp, mollusks and crustaceans, fresh seafood comprised 80.4 percent of the department, down from an 81.1 percent department contribution in 2009. 

Where fresh seafood lost dollar share, prepared seafood gained. Prepared seafood’s contribution to the department rose from 14.9 percent in 2009 to 15.7 percent in 2010. The department category includes everything from seafood meals, surimi seafood and smoked salmon to crab cakes, stuffed clams and cleaned/deveined shrimp platters. The third seafood department category, “other” (comprised of sauces, dips, spreads and side dishes), rounded out the department with less than a 4 percent share of sales. 

Regional seafood sales trends reflected the broader U.S. trend, where fresh seafood and other seafood lost share and dollars, and prepared seafood gained. While prepared seafood in all regions increased dollar contribution to department sales, the West region had the largest growth with a 1.9 percentage point increase. The West region also had the largest decline in fresh seafood dollar contribution, down 1.9 percentage points. 

Just as dollar contribution fluctuated across the country, dollar sales changes were apparent in each U.S. region as well. The largest changes in prepared seafood were driven by growth in the West, where weekly dollar sales per store increased more than 15 percent. 

Fresh seafood had the largest growth in weekly dollars per store in the South, but experienced a decline of 3.1 percent in the East region. 

When examining category trends within fresh, prepared and other seafood, fresh finfish maintained its leading position in department sales. However, in 2010, other prepared seafood, which included smoked fish, skewers and stuffed fillets, had the largest growth, increasing dollar sales by 6.9 percent. That increase was likely driven by consumers looking for meal solutions that save time and energy, while providing value and a healthful product. 

Regionally, sales and share trends were generally in line with overall nationwide trends.  Finfish had the highest dollar sales in all regions, while crustaceans declined in dollar sales and share in all four regions, with sales decreases as large as 12.1 percent in the West. 


This sales review is provided by the Perishables Group of Chicago, an independent consulting firm focused on innovation and creating value for clients in the fresh food industry. Reported results are for Dec. 26, 2009, through Dec. 25, 2010, representing approximately 62 percent of national supermarket ACV share. For more information, contact the Perishables Group: Kelli Beckel, (773) 929-7013; kellib@perishablesgroup.com.

March 2011 - SeaFood Business 

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