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Reeling in the seafood shopper

Thanks to better convenience options, more Canadians are eating fish as their main meal

Clearwater scallops-0913

Just as parents dress up dinners to include healthy ingredients for their reluctant children, retail seafood manufacturers are taking the same approach to entice consumers to the category.

And that tactic seems to be working. Whether its scallops wrapped in pork or pre-cooked fish on a stick, consumers are buying into the concept of getting their weekly recommended intake but through a convenient and restaurant-style method.

Seafood consumption has steadily increased year-on-year through the last decade, according to the NPD Group, with Canadians now eating it as a ‘main meal’ 43 times per year.

Frozen and fresh fish products have been the main driver of this growth, says Joel Gregoire, industry analyst from the NPD Group, especially amongst the 18 to 34 age group that have spearheaded the greatest increase in overall consumption.

It is this generation market that believes they are the next Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen and know-all nutritional expert. But when it comes to basic fish preparation and cooking, they tend to run scared.

To tap into this skill and time starved category, manufacturers are creating unique light and main meal solutions, such as the new Goldseal’s No Drain Solid White Tuna or Clearwater’s Scallops & Sauce products.

“Consumers are looking for user-friendly formats that can help alleviate the uncertainty of preparing seafood at home,” agrees Jeff Duffin, vice-president of marketing with Clearwater Seafood. “They’re also looking for convenience with ‘speed scratch’ items that can be used to recreate the restaurant experience at home at a wallet-friendly price point.”

As consumers age, their seafood consumption increases, Gregorie says. People 55 to 64 eat seafood 60 times per year on average. “Looking at household profiles who consume more fish, it is empty nesters or those households without children,” he says.

Price, of course, plays a huge part in seafood consumption. A recent report by Islandsbanki financial services found seafood prices have increased by 11.2% since 2006. This price increase has been more prevalent in canned seafood as it is more sensitive to rising raw material costs.

“These price rises have naturally had an impact on overall consumption for all manufacturers,” says Peter Clarke from Cloverleaf. “So when consumers are now buying into the category, they want to maximise spend and have a good choice.”

Clarke says household penetration for canned tuna is at 70 per cent so no one should discount the importance this staple plays in the market. “Innovation continues to play its part in driving this figure, such as flavoured or added ingredients to basic lines. This has been key to attracting new and younger consumers.”

Value-added is the new trend that all seafood players are investing and promoting in.

“Retailers should pay close attention to the value-added seafood segment as it is attracting a new set of consumers to the seafood department,” says Duffin. “This segment is showing popularity across a breadth of consumer segments from single-unit households to large families.”

Consumers are more willing to stretch their spend when it comes to fresh fish with wild remaining the most popular type, according to a survey by the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.

No matter the innovation, in-store theatre or promotional campaigns, there are many consumers who simply believe there is something fishy about seafood.

Debates surrounding sustainability, packaging, and safety, farmed versus wild have all dented consumer confidence somewhat.

“Consumers should be able to confirm whether the seafood is wild-caught or farmed, that it was sustainably sourced and where it comes from,” says Duffin from Clearwater.

Innovation and education is the only way to reel in today’s demanding consumers.

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