The pandemic has proven to be an interesting time for the seafood industry. After a year of rapid category growth at retail and looking ahead as consumers slowly head back into restaurants where seafood is historically king, we believe sales will continue to climb as Alaska seafood can meet consumers’ needs and exceed their expectations.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) recently conducted research via Datassential to uncover seafood consumption trends in the wake of the pandemic. The Datassential study found nearly half (49 percent) of all consumers are trying to increase their consumption of seafood (compared to just 36 percent who are looking to increase their consumption of chicken, 23 percent beef, 17 percent pork, and 23 percent veggie burgers), primarily because of seafood’s health attributes and taste. Furthermore, 35 percent of consumers are cooking more seafood at home, with most planning to continue. The motivating factors for choosing seafood over other proteins include: more fresh options (88 percent), all-natural options (86 percent), easy recipe ideas (85 percent), healthy recipe ideas (85 percent), product of the USA (83 percent), wild-caught (82 percent) and health benefits (73 percent). In addition, the Alaska name is a strong purchase driver, with customers choosing wild Alaska king crab, wild Alaska pollock and wild Alaska salmon over other options.
One of the most surprising facts from the Datassential research was that more than a quarter of consumers purchased seafood at retail for the first time ever during the pandemic. Meat shortages, increased emphasis on cooking at home, and a desire for new culinary options may have prompted more consumers to try seafood in 2020. This opens up an incredible opportunity for us in the seafood industry to continue to encourage seafood consumption and provide simple and inspiring ways to enjoy it as we approach the end of 2021. While we expect consumers to continue to cook at home, we also anticipate a resurgence in the foodservice channels as restaurants re-open and more people dine out. Datassential research discovered that seafood is the second-most missed item by consumers from restaurants during lockdown.
While this past year and a half has caused unprecedented changes in seafood consumption, we do believe that some of the shifts are here to stay, as the pandemic has permanently impacted the way people relate to their food, the way they shop, and the way they want to experience food at restaurants. We expect consumers to continue caring about:
- Where their food comes from ––A brand’s value, safety, and purpose now matter more to consumers and impacts the way and why they buy. When it comes to seafood, consumers want to know the origin and how it was harvested. Purchasers can feel confident when choosing seafood from Alaska, as it is wild and sustainably caught.
- The health benefits of their food– The pandemic has made consumers recognize the importance of overall well-being, and they’ll continue to seek out functional foods like seafood. After the stress of the pandemic and overall life moments, consumers want to eat better, and consuming seafood supports this lifestyle. Alaska seafood is a natural source of protein, vitamins, and nutrients that satisfy the belly and body, reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. It’s no wonder the USDA recommends that people eat seafood twice a week. Plus, as we approach peak cold and flu season and consumers continue to look for immune supporting foods, they can choose wild seafood for high Vitamin D and Omega 3 content.
- Ease of preparation – Packaged and canned food sales are up at grocery stores and mass retailers, including frozen seafood, which experienced a 36% sales lift last year. The demand is driven by the increase in cooking at home, and while most people plan to continue, they are experiencing fatigue in the kitchen. The need for convenient, yet healthy and delicious recipes and ingredients, is greater than ever. The industry can support customers’ needs by offering simple meal solutions, recipes, preparation tips, and other culinary inspiration.
ASMI is utilizing the seafood consumption trends and insights to support the Alaska seafood, retail, and foodservice industries. Through targeted e-commerce partnerships, easy and social-friendly recipe ideas, retailer promotions, foodservice innovation and offerings, and collaborating with chefs and experts, our focus is on retaining and connecting these new and experimenting seafood consumers to Alaska seafood to convert them to lifelong customers. For more information and recipe ideas visit www.alaskaseafood.org.