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Analysis by Bruce Horovitz | Research By Debra Chanil
Seafood would seem to be so utterly and definitively on trend that supermarkets would have a hard time keeping up with demand.
After all, most seafood is widely viewed as good for you — a clincher for health-conscious Millennial customers. Even the federal government recently recommended folks eat at least 8 ounces of seafood per week, which equates to two servings. Yet only one in 10 Americans actually consumes the recommended amount.
Nevertheless, insights from Progressive Grocer’s 2016 Retail Seafood Review survey indicate that the seafood section’s waters are increasingly perceived as inviting for more takers. The exclusive annual survey is unique in asking supermarket executives from around the country about the various forces in play in the average seafood department, from category performance to demand to sales.
One of the most revealing findings in this year’s annual retail seafood report is that not a single retail participant expects seafood sales to decline in 2016, alongside a fairly hopeful outlook for 2016 seafood sales. A hefty 46.4 percent of executives surveyed projected seafood sales would increase in 2016 — and the remainder said they’d at least stay the same.
Participants in the survey, which probed views from headquarters executives, seafood category leaders and department managers nationally, foresaw lots of converging seafood department trends. Besides the continued evolution toward fresh, local and sustainable fish, there was growing interest in value-added seafood offerings like ready-to-cook items or seafood that’s already marinated.
Most importantly, however, the survey revealed seafood departments that appear ready to swim without water wings.
So far-reaching is the optimism that positive seafood sales projections have even touched some of the nation’s smallest towns and grocers. In tiny Wagener, S.C., where about the only market in town is a Piggly Wiggly, the store has just begun in recent weeks to sell something it hasn’t sold before: fresh seafood.
“People are asking for it,” says Robert Crumpton, a retired manager who now works part-time in the store’s meat department — which has since been renamed the meat and seafood department. Although fresh fish is new to the store, the Piggly Wiggly is already selling upwards of $150 worth of it weekly, he estimates.
Fresh and Healthy
It appears that this trend toward fresh is being positively influenced by the 500-pound fish in the tank: Millennials.
“It’s the younger shoppers like Millennials that are asking for fresh, not frozen, fish,” affirms Crumpton. “Anything we can get that’s fresh, we sell.”
But Millennials don’t just want it fresh, they also want all available information about it. Above and beyond just about anything, Millennials need to know where their food comes from, according to a recent report from The NPD Group. In the report, Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD gives a positive nod to the seafood industry for its bid to boost local sourcing and, yes, traceability.