The category welcomed millions of new consumers with shaky seafood cooking skills, making easy-to-prepare dishes, recipes and meal solutions critical to continued success
Although frozen seafood sales rose only 2.0% during the 12 weeks ended Oct. 3 (versus the same period a year ago), the category is up a whopping 46.8% — to more than $1.61 billion across channels — since 2019, reports Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com).
The increase is consistent with recent findings by the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) that nearly half of all consumers are actively trying to increase their seafood consumption and 35% are cooking more seafood at home. Why? Health is the No. 1 reason shoppers choose seafood over other proteins, followed by taste. So if you’re not calling out the health benefits of your frozen seafood offerings via shelf tags or signage you may be missing an opportunity to reel in affluent shoppers, who are even more likely than other shoppers to choose seafood for its nutritional value.
HELP FOR FIRST-TIME BUYERS
Recent ASMI research also revealed that 26% of consumers purchased seafood for the first time ever during the pandemic, often after growing tired of preparing the same proteins for months on end. However, the fact that it took a global pandemic to get those consumers to give seafood a try suggests many still aren’t comfortable cooking it at home. Retailers can help them overcome the fear factor by offering an assortment that includes plenty of easy-to-prepare, value-added dishes that require little skill. But for those who want to do a little more, recipes are key. In fact, ASMI found that store-provided recipes are the best way to encourage consumers to eat more seafood at home. Manufacturers say they can only do so much on packaging, so it’s up to retailers to pick up the slack, offering recipes at the point of sale, on their website, in their magazines and at in-store kiosks or cooking stations — where they can also demonstrate how to prepare seafood dishes. (Yes, demos are expensive, but a confident cook can become a frequent buyer!)
An even better idea is to merchandise all the items needed to prepare a particular seafood-based meal together in one display. To make it even easier, how about offering meal kits built around seafood? No matter how much or how little time or effort consumers want to put in, retailers should have a solution that makes it easier for them to get a seafood meal on the table.
And don’t forget about plant-based options. Manufacturers say inflation, supply chain issues, and concerns over the sustainability of certain species are all helping spark demand for plant-based seafood alternatives. Some of those same concerns are also piquing consumer interest in seafood sourcing. In fact, 83% of consumers said that seafood labeled “product of the U.S.A.” is a top motivator for choosing it over other proteins. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Same goes for various certifications around sustainability and other issues: If all or some of the products you offer have earned them, call them out. POS signage that explains what different seals actually mean, defines common terms like wild-caught and aquaculture, and details your efforts to improve sustainability will go a long way toward helping consumers make the right choice for themselves — while also proving your dedication to transparency.
TIME FOR A SINGLE SEAFOOD DESTINATION?
While many retailers merchandise frozen seafood in two separate spots — “everyday” battered and breaded items in the frozen aisle and higher-end products near the fresh seafood counter — some manufacturers think it might be time to consider one big seafood set where consumers can find all of their options in one place. Perhaps that frozen fish sticks buyer would consider trading up if she saw, say, superfood shrimp bites that pack a bigger nutritional punch.
Manufacturers also suggest retailers tap into the growing popularity of frozen snacks with a broad selection of seafood-based snacks and apps. Because they’re protein-based, seafood snacks can also be used to create a variety of meals (poke bowls, tacos, salads, etc.). But again, retailers need to show consumers the possibilities through cross-merchandising, recipes, social media and other vehicles.