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Cross-Merchandising Photo-1.jpg 210 Analytics LLC
Cross-merchandising cases enable shoppers to easily create seafood-based meals.

Shoppers have seafood meal prep fatigue. Here’s how to beat it.

Cross-merchandising is key


  • The most effective seafood co-merchandising arrangements also will vary by meal occasion
  • Situate co-marketing displays near an outlet’s entrance
  • Seafood with higher household penetration, like salmon, shrimp, tuna, and cod, are prime candidates for cross-merchandising

With consumers preparing about 78% of their meals at home even as the pandemic ebbs, supermarket seafood operators are in strong position to attract an increasingly attentive shopper base.

Indeed, with many shoppers suffering from meal “fatigue” and seeking new at-home lunch and dinner options, seafood can be an attractive alternative. The challenge? Getting consumers to understand the components that turn seafood into a meal. 

“Consumers say that figuring out what is for dinner is as much of a struggle as actually buying the items and preparing the meal,” 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. “This is where cross-merchandising can make a massive difference.”

By creating instore displays that feature center-of-the plate seafood and meal accompaniments, merchandisers can add simplicity and enhance consumer confidence in seafood purchasing.

While many retailer merchandising strategies focus on easier preparation, Roerink noted that “there is a lot to be said about solutions that address meal planning. Surprisingly, many people struggle with it. They prepare the same-old, get bored, and then go to a restaurant for variety.”

Combining foods that people perceive as a natural fit is key to successful cross-merchandising. Retailers can determine the components that most interest shoppers by studying purchase data that lists all items in the baskets of seafood buyers, as well as by pinpointing selections that over-index for the segment versus the total population.

“This provides a great view of the types of meals that seafood consumers consume,” Roerink said, noting for instance, that a basket with shrimp may also contain pasta, sauce, mushrooms and bacon, whereas someone buying salmon may have entirely different items in their cart.
“The more consumers can envision and almost taste the meal from seeing the ingredients, the more successful the cross-merchandising display tends to be,” she said.

Display items will likely vary in accordance with the season and a store’s geographic location. “A cross-merchandising display that works gangbusters in New England may not move the needle in the Southwest,” Roerink said, adding that seafood preferences have a greater variance by region than options in most other supermarket categories.

The most effective seafood co-merchandising arrangements also will vary by meal occasion, she noted. Retailers that position seafood as a premium or holiday solution may have a “surf and turf” bunker featuring both seafood and meat options, for instance. Whereas items for entertaining, like bacon-wrapped scallops or fried shrimp, can co-exist with other snacking items.

Seafood with higher household penetration, like salmon, shrimp, tuna, and cod, are prime candidates for cross-merchandising while less popular specialty species have lower sales potential, Roerink said. 

“Putting together cross-merchandising displays containing seafood means that retailers are automatically starting off with a lower percentage of shoppers with interest in the display compared to meat and poultry,” she said. “That is why cross-merchandising solutions typically contain species with greater sales potential. Selections such as trout and catfish may not work as well though it is important to keep regionality and seasonal items, such as crab, in mind.”

Regardless of the meal components, situating co-marketing displays near an outlet’s entrance is a key sales driver, Roerink said, noting that meal bunkers that customers notice when they first enter the store “have been true cash machines. Oftentimes meal planning for most shoppers starts in either the produce or the meat department, so having a ready-to-go meal solution for seafood as you enter the store can be a winning tactic.”

Along with the benefits from cross-merchandising, however, is often the arduous task of maintaining displays. Indeed, having the necessary manpower to consistently present exhibits that are fresh and full is one of the biggest marketing challenges. 

“Cross-merchandising displays work but it is hard to keep them stocked to be effective during the times when store labor is scarce,” Roerink said, “particularly when retailers source items from different supermarket departments which are responsible for their part of the displays.”

Retailers can also leverage the simpler measure of spotlighting meal ideas online at a retailer’s e-commerce site, Roerink said. 

“It’s relatively easy to create suggestions combining items from various departments into one meal solution, much like a cross-merchandising display in the store,” she said. “An online shopper then can add all items to the cart with one click of the button. Additionally, providing suggestions in the ‘also purchase’ fields can be a way to cross-merchandise virtually.”

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