Seafood sales went under water in 2022, erasing gains made over the last two years, according to the Power of Seafood 2023 report released Friday from FMI – The Food Industry Association.
Seafood units sold in 2022 dropped 9.7%, while revenue fell 3.8%, to $16.3 billion. The share of households buying seafood fell from more than 87% in 2021 to just over 85% last year. Price increases due to inflation were cited as the cause for the sluggish sales.
“Inflationary price increases certainly had a negative impact on the sale and consumption of seafood in 2022, with many shoppers turning to more affordable proteins as they adjusted their spending habits to the economic environment,” Rick Stein, FMI’s VP for fresh foods, said in a statement.
Despite the decrease, seafood sales remained up compared to 2019, both in dollar (30.1%) and unit (2.2%) sales the report found.
Among seafood categories, shrimp continues to be the biggest seller, though it decreased in both dollar (down 6.7%) and unit (down 14.6%) sales last year. Salmon and tuna saw dollar sales up about 5%, even as unit sales tumbled.
Crab sales remained far above pre-pandemic levels, despite double-digit drops in 2022, the report said. Crab was up 50.1% in dollar sales and 13.5% in unit sales.
Grocery and frozen seafood fared better than fresh seafood in 2022, a trend that was attributed to concerns about food waste amid soaring inflation.
Inflation also changed seafood consumption frequency. Those who consider themselves “frequent” seafood consumers fell from 29% in 2021 to 24% last year.
“For most of these Americans who are reducing their seafood consumption frequency, the reasons for including less seafood in their diets is either inflation or prices overall (47%) or the price of seafood compared to other proteins (38%),” the report noted.
Frequent seafood buyers have some common characteristics, the report found, including higher household income (an average of $89,000 per year), college degrees and a greater likelihood of being male. These shoppers also typically spend more on their grocery visits—two times more, on average, than when seafood isn’t in the basket. They’re also more likely to shop online, the report found.
Two-thirds of shoppers said sustainability impacts their seafood-buying choices, but there are varied beliefs on what “sustainability” means.
“Many seafood consumers associate sustainable seafood with the ways that it was caught or raised, while others relate sustainability with being good for the environment and environmental,” the report said.