Seafood is riding the health and wellness wave.
With the COVID-19 pandemic helping to boost consumers’ already strong interest in healthy eating, retailers are in position to trigger greater seafood activity by spotlighting the protein’s wellness attributes.
Seventy-four percent of seafood consumers, for instance, indicate that they want to become more knowledgeable about the nutritional benefits of seafood, as do 43% of non-seafood consumers, states the Power of Seafood 2021 report, published by the Arlington, Va.-based FMI-The Food Industry Association.
“This strong image of seafood as being healthy and nutritious, combined with Americans’ increased focus on health and wellness, is a prime messaging opportunity for food retailers in their efforts to increase consumption of seafood,” the report states.
Such seafood attributes as being a high-quality protein that contains healthy fats, such as omega-3s, while still low in fat are having a major impact on shoppers’ decision to consume the products, the Power of Seafood notes. Being heart-healthy while providing essential nutrients and immune support are other attractive elements, the report adds.
Indeed, with just 32% of seafood consumers reporting that they adhere to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) guidelines of eating seafood two times per week, and 30% of occasional buyers indicating that they eat seafood at least once a month, but less than twice per week, there is strong potential for category expansion. “That leaves a sizable 38% of adults who are non-seafood eaters,” the Power of Seafood states.
Displaying nutritional data in seafood departments is key for generating more activity from health-oriented shoppers. (Photo: Richard Mitchell)
Emphasizing the USDA’s dietary guidelines also can generate activity, the Power of Seafood reports. It notes that while 64% of seafood consumers know of the twice-per-week suggestion, 57% of non-seafood consumers do not. “Making consumers aware of this simple-to-understand recommendation that has relatively low awareness could have a positive impact on seafood consumption and help consumers better adhere to the dietary guidelines for overall improved health,” the report adds.
Indeed, healthy eating “is the leading driver for seafood growth,” said Jessica Miller, nutrition communications manager at the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP), an Arlington, Va.-based non-profit organization that focuses on building awareness of the health and nutritional benefits of seafood, and the former category manager for natural, organic and specialty foods and corporate dietitian for Pyramid Foods. “As the pandemic continues to cause waves of concern, staying well is top of mind for shoppers. They're responding to health messaging and are actively seeking out ways to stay well.”
In national SNP surveys, heart-healthy “always comes in number one” when asking consumers of the health and wellness claims that would motivate them to eat more seafood, she said.
“With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, the benefits found in seafood should be touted,” she stated. “Heart health is just as important to millennials and Gen Xers as they are to boomers, as the younger generations are seeing the health problems their parents face and want to try and prevent that through healthier lifestyle choices.”
In addition, respondents in SNP consumer surveys over the last several years made “I think it’s good for you” the top choice when asked for their perception of seafood and given a list of positive and negative options. However, that choice ranked second to “It can be expensive” in SNP’s November 2021 survey of more than 1,000 persons. “This is not surprising given the increasing price at retail across all goods,” Miller said.
While supermarket meat department operators can communicate nutrition attributes via such traditional methods as signage, shelf tags, wobblers and rail strips, they also should consider newer methods to keep pace with the growth of e-commerce, she noted.
“Keep in mind how stimulating a supermarket can be and the competition at play for a shopper’s attention,” she said. “As online shopping and curbside orders increase, consider getting creative to capture the shopper’s attention.”
That can include providing health messaging on social media channels and calling out the benefits of seafood on the retailer’s website or online shopping portal, Miller stated. Having supportive messaging in ads that spotlight the nutritional attributes of the species on sale can further boost interest, she said.
Supermarkets also should “use the dietitian team as the face of nutrition information in the store,” she noted. “They are the experts, and the in-store team can refer to the registered dietician for species highest in omega-3's or lowest in cholesterol.” Operators may want to label species in the case as “heart healthy” or highlight a certain species through a “dietitian's choice” program as well, Miller said.