Skip navigation
Over the latest 52 weeks, seafood prices increased 6.2%, which was far below the rate of inflation for total food and beverages.

Seafood prices up a tick; sales remain solid

Product moved very consistently during March

Fresh seafood prices had just a small uptick in March 2023 vs. March last year across all three merchandising zones, according to the latest research from Circana (formerly IRI), 210 Analytics and Elanco. Only fresh finfish still had lingering inflation of 5.2% when compared to March 2022 pricing levels. Over the latest 52 weeks, seafood prices increased 6.2%, which was far below the rate of inflation for total food and beverages, though when looking at finfish alone, the level was much higher. Frozen and shelf-stable seafood (cans and pouches) also had relatively mild inflation.

Fresh salmon price increases dropped to +6.2% in March 2023 but prices were up 10.3% for the full-year view. Crab and lobster experienced deflation.

In frozen, price patterns for the top five sellers were very different. Salmon and pollock price increases remained in the double digits whereas frozen shrimp, crab and tilapia prices were actually down from year ago levels in March 2023. Shrimp are the frozen seafood powerhouse, with sales of $3.7 billion in the latest 52 weeks. However, shrimp sales dropped in both dollars and volume, likely related to the above-average level of inflation. Salmon, while the dominant species in fresh, is the second-largest seller in frozen, generating $649 million in the past year and $73 million in the month of March 2023.

Though lapping a full year of sales declines, fresh, frozen and shelf-stable sales continued their struggle to keep up with prior year levels. It is important to keep in mind that the timing of Easter between 2022 and 2023 was off by one week. Dollar wise, losses were fairly minimal, especially for shelf-stable and fresh, but in volume losses averaged between 4% and 7%.

Ambient seafood sales had been in positive growth territory since the fourth quarter of 2021. Growth peaked in the second quarter of 2022 and fell below year-ago levels in March 2023. Canned seafood had among the highest growth rates in March 2020 with triple-digit gains when compared to March 2019.

In March, ambient tuna in cans and pouches reached $202 million in sales, which was a 1% year-on-year decrease for the largest seller. On an annual basis, seafood cans and pouches reached $2.7 billion.

In March 2023, fresh seafood generated $621 million in sales and the entire year brought in $6.5 billion. Shellfish and finfish continued to have vastly different performances in the 52-week period, but in March, the performances were similar. Deflationary conditions in shellfish kept pounds at similar levels as seen in March 2022, whereas continued (though mild) price increases in finfish caused a bit more volume pressure here.

Finfish sales struggled from the fourth quarter of 2021 through the third quarter of 2022 with double-digit declines in pound sales when compared to their prior year levels. In the past year, volume has plateaued at around 3%-4% below year-ago levels.

Year-over-year shellfish sales moved into negative territory in the second quarter of 2021 and bottomed out during the second quarter of 2022. Dollars and pounds moved into the plus for the first time in many months in February 2023, but dropped back slightly in March.

Breaking down March 2023 further

The five March weeks showed very consistent seafood sales, ranging from $130 million during the first week of March to $119 million at the end of March.

Assortment, expressed in the average number of items per store, is still down a little, but in the grand scheme of things, has not changed significantly over the past few years.   

The consistent market leader, salmon, had a solid March with dollar gains and mild pound pressure. Deflation pushed crab pounds well above March 2022 levels while also accomplishing dollar gains.

The total frozen food department reached $7.1 billion in sales in the five March weeks, up 6.8% versus last year. Whereas processed meat/poultry had dollar and unit gains, meat/poultry and seafood experienced sales pressure.  

By type, frozen shellfish (predominantly raw and cooked shrimp) was the largest seller in March 2023, at $414 million. Dollar sales were down year-on-year, whereas pound sales grew. Frozen finfish, at $278 million, experienced sales declines both in dollars and pounds.


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.