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GEN Z, ASIANS & HISPANICS PUT SURIMI ON THE SHOPPING LIST

But proper placement near other fresh seafood offerings, more recipes and better messaging around health and sustainability will help drive sales growth.

Formerly known as imitation crab, surimi is a sales and profit driver for retailers; however, it often does not get the retail space and corresponding marketing that could drive further growth — particularly among younger consumers.

Surimi generated $47.7 million in sales during the 13 weeks ended Oct. 8, according to Circana, the Chicago-based market research firm. Although sales were down 5.9%, the segment outperformed the seafood category as a whole, thanks at least in part to its affordability. Cash-strapped consumers looking for even greater savings mi- grated to private label, whose dollar sales shot up 18.0%. In addition to price, surimi is also valued for its flexibility as a snack and as an ingredient in meals.

Frequent surimi purchasers are younger, highly educated parents with an average income of $87,600 (36% of frequent purchasers boast an average income over $100,000), according to 2021 research by the Seattle- based Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP).

Ten years ago, the core surimi customer was 45 and older. Today, the demographic is skewing much younger — primarily Generation Z — driven by the popularity of sushi and other Asian foods. The 25- to 34-year-old demographic accounts for 22% of the frequent purchasers, followed by 35- to 44-year-olds, which comprise 20% of frequent purchasers, GAPP found.

Savvy suppliers and retailers are reaching those young- er demographics with recipes and content on TikTok and Snapchat — the two platforms most popular with 18- to 44-year-olds.

Growing populations of Asian and Hispanic consumers in the U.S. are fueling the use of surimi as a common ingredient in many dishes popular with those ethnic groups. Four in 10 Hispanic customers say they have purchased surimi. Nearly half of Asian Americans buy it.

Shoppers across demographics are also more interested in buying seafood products produced in the U.S., according to GAPP and suppliers. Stressing the high quality of wild Alaska pollock in surimi and utilizing GAPP’s logo and marketing materials will likely boost sales.

SPACE & PLACEMENT KEY

It is essential to give surimi seafood adequate shelf space and a location that makes it easy for grocery shoppers to find the product.

“Without a doubt, [poor] product placement is the No. 1 mistake retailers make. Surimi seafood is often placed in the smoked seafood case [instead of] near the fresh/chilled seafood such as crab in the full service case,” says Craig Morris, CEO of GAPP. “As people are at the grocery store looking for fresh seafood to use in their recipes, the fact surimi seafood isn’t in that case is the greatest missed opportunity.”

In-store signage will also bump up product visibility — a significant barrier to purchase — and stir impromptu purchases, particularly among infrequent or lapsed purchasers.

Providing recipes is also a sales driver, according to GAPP. Instead of using price as a motivator, recipe ideas placed near the product make shoppers more likely to put retail surimi seafood in their grocery carts, Morris advises.

Retailers should also communicate the numerous health and wellness benefits of seafood and surimi to shoppers. Surimi is a low-mercury seafood option, making it safe for children and pregnant women. Introducing healthy protein options like surimi early and often is the best way to help children build acceptance of various flavors and foods. At the other end of the spectrum, active older adults need high-quality protein. So be sure they know that surimi fits the bill.

In addition, GAAP recommends that retail promotions communicate that surimi is a sustainable seafood that represents a healthy choice for the planet.

The group’s research also found that, while U.S. consumers are much more familiar with the term “imitation crab,” they feel better about buying “surimi seafood.” So be sure you’re using the right terminology.

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