Retailers that can provide new and diverse ways for shoppers to prepare seafood are in position to accelerate activity.
Many shoppers that boosted their in-home seafood consumption during the pandemic remain loyal to the category, but they are also increasingly craving fresh prep ideas.
“Inspiration, whether via recipes or preparation instructions, is an ongoing opportunity for fresh seafood,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics LLC, a San Antonio-based market research and marketing strategies firm and preparer of the Seafood at Retail report. “Whenever consumers are looking for dinner inspiration, it is important for seafood to answer the call simply because current eating habits are seafood’s biggest obstacle to overcome.”
Because shoppers more frequently consume chicken, beef, and pork at mealtime, it is crucial that merchandisers move to keep seafood “front and center,” and that includes consistently providing recipes and preparation data to all shopper segments, she said. That can be challenging, however, as different generations typically gravitate towards different social media platforms. (i.e.: TikTok for Gen Z, Instagram for Millennials, Google for Gen X.)
Gen Z consumers also often favor video while Baby Boomers typically opt for text-driven calls-to-action, Roerink said. “That means having to be everywhere and matching the type of recipes, the tones, visuals, and text to each of the platforms and audiences,” Roerink said.
According to FMI—The Food Industry Association’s 2023 Power of Seafood report, the top five sources for inspiration when looking for ways to cook or prepare seafood are:
- Family and friends
- Routine meals that consumers are familiar with
- And recipe websites / apps
In addition, 82% of consumers indicate that they seek recipes from a store’s seafood counter, the report notes.
The optimal recipes to present to each segment will differ depending on shopper eating habits, Roerink said. Because Boomers will often stick to a specific species for their seafood meals, it often helps for the retailer to provide a “twist,” like suggesting a different marinade or demonstrating how to prepare the seafood on the grill instead of the oven or skillet.
Those kinds of suggestions can help spur interest and prevent meal fatigue, Roerink said.
Younger generations without strict cooking routines are more adventurous and whimsical, which includes being open to international recipes or recreating restaurant meals, Roerink said.
While the most popular recipes feature the best-selling species, including salmon, shrimp, and mild white fish, such as cod, many consumers are likely to also experiment with less-popular species after they successfully create seafood meals. Retailers can trigger such expansion by providing links to recipes for additional species when presenting online cooking ideas for the most prominent options.
Distributing recipe and cooking instructions for a range of species is prudent as the increased at-home meal preparation that began during the pandemic is resulting in greater consumer comfort in cooking seafood, according to the 2023 Power of Seafood report.
Despite the potential for triggering interest in a wider range of species, it is still advantageous for retailers to provide shoppers with recipes for the seafood that consumers are buying and eating most often, says Rima Kleiner, a registered dietitian, licensed nutritionist, and operator of the Dish on Fish blog that is sponsored by the Reston, Va.-based National Fisheries Institute. (The blog provides seafood recipes, tips, and meal plans.)
“Crab, trout, salmon, and shellfish have all seen an uptick in supermarket sales and that closely tracks with the most-viewed species on Dish on Fish,” she said. “It’s likely that many shoppers are looking for easy and tasty ways to prepare these species, which could help boost purchasing activity at the retail level.”
It also is beneficial for retailers to focus on recipes that are quick to make, and which require minimal prep or cleanup, Kleiner said. “The time that people devote to preparing dinner at home has significantly decreased over the years,” she said. “At the same time, the demand for convenience has skyrocketed. Some of the most popular recipes are sheet-pan meals or ones that utilize the air fryer or instant pot.”
Additional platforms that are effective for dispensing recipes and preparation instructions to consumers include social media, seafood company websites, product packaging, and cooking magazines at the checkout lines, Kleiner said.
“Most Americans don’t eat enough seafood, and not knowing how to prepare it is one of the most common reasons why,” she said. “No matter how they are distributed, the more recipes and cooking tips we can share, the more we can help shoppers feel confident about cooking seafood. Consumers are hungry for more information.”