Predominantly sold fresh through the seafood counter, finfish and shellfish suffered initially at the start of the pandemic, when shoppers were reluctant to frequent full-service departments, says Pete Swanson, senior consultant with the IRI Fresh Center for Excellence.
“Seafood sales were actually down, as no one wanted to buy from behind the glass,” says Swanson. “We didn’t see seafood sales growth until May, when people felt it was OK to go back and buy. May saw a 40% increase in sales year over- ear. Fresh seafood went from negative sales and just like it ramped up. Even now its operating at a 20% increase year over year.”
But by July, things started to get interesting. That month, IRI’s COVID-19 Weekly Survey of Primary Shoppers found that 49% of shoppers were preparing 91%-100% of their meals at home, with 49% of those surveyed citing finding new mealtime ideas as their biggest challenge to cooking. This coupled with restaurant/foodservice closures across the country led shoppers to splurge at the seafood counter.
While seafood department sales were up 16.5%, with sales of finfish up over 11%, sales of lobster were up 29% and crab, a colossal 49%.
Total U.S. multioutlet | “YA” is the year ago for the same weeks ending 2019; 2 YA is the same weeks ending 2018; 3 YA is the same weeks ending 2017 | IRI Unify in the Integrated Fresh database which combines fixed- and random-weight items
Notes: Seafood is composed of both fixed- and random-weight refrigerated items; some may be sold as refrigerated, thawed from previously frozen | All other seafood includes seafood cakes, salads, dips/sauces/spreads,exotic, party trays, soups, stuffed vegetables, and other items assigned to the seafood department
Source: IRI Syndicated Integrated Fresh database, which combines random- and fixed-weight brands/product types known to be sold in this department at the majority of retailers
Measures: Dollar sales refers to the total cumulative dollar sales sold for that product during the time period (not included, but used as reference); dollar sales change refers to the percent difference between the current and prior period for total dollar sales; dollar share to dept. refers to the total dollar sales of that product divided by the total dollar sales of the department to which it belongs; dollar share to category refers to the total dollar sales of that subcategory divided by the total dollar sales of the parent category