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Nielsen: US retail seafood sales stuck in neutral

Category has a few bright spots, but sales volumes are down and prices are up.

Despite some seasonal spikes, the US retail seafood category remains in neutral, according to a new report by market research firm Nielsen.

Seafood sales increased 3.4 percent in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 24, 2018, said Nielsen, but the rise is attributable to a 4.5 percent increase in average retail price, rather than a burst in new sales. The volume of seafood sales during that period fell 1.1 percent.

The Nielsen data only includes the first 10 days of the 2018 Lenten period, so it is unclear if sales increased during the remaining 30 days of the Lenten period.

Let's hope so. Lent, the six-week period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, provides a much-needed seafood sales boost. US retailers generated $1 billion (€ 808.1 million) in seafood sales during Lent last year.

Where growth might come from

While overall seafood sales are flat, Nielsen's research suggests that certain fresh seafood options are significantly outpacing their performance versus a year ago, both in dollar and volume sales. Prepared seafood, sushi and poke are among the options showing both dollar and volume sales growth, Nielsen said.

US restaurant diners order 901 million servings of this seafood in 2017

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Retailers can boost seafood sales, Nielsen suggests, by partially or fully preparing seafood items that eliminate the “guessing game” when it comes to food preparation for time-starved consumers.

"With $154.6 million [€124.9 million] in in-store meal kit sales last year, retailers could very easily bring seafood into this rapidly growing grocery option, especially since 29 percent of meal kit users say they eat more seafood with meal kits."

Lastly, the market analysis group noted that consumers are buying more seafood carrying the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or some other eco-label.

Sales of all seafood with sustainability claims increased 3 percent over the past year, while sales of seafood with MSC labeling grew 27 percent and sales of seafood with Sustainable Fishing labeling grew 30 percent.

Nielsen did not explain whether the rise in eco-labeled seafood purchases was taking market share from seafood without such labels, or whether the rise was simply because more eco-label product is now in the market.

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