US seafood sales fell by nearly 4% in 2022, says consumer report

Inflation and higher seafood prices meant US shoppers looked for cheaper protein alternatives, according to the FMI.
Seafood consumption in the US dropped in 2022 due to inflation and higher prices, says FMI report. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Seafood consumption in the US dropped in 2022 due to inflation and higher prices, says FMI report. Photo: Adobe Stock.

The US seafood industry rode a wave of record sales during the COVID19 pandemic. However, last year's high inflation and associated price increases meant shoppers looked for cheaper protein alternatives in 2022, according to a new consumer report.

The Power of Seafood 2023 report, released today by US-based organization FMI – The Food Industry Association, reveals that seafood department sales totalled $16.2 billion in 2022, a fall of 3.8% compared to 2021.

However, overall seafood sales remained higher than those recorded during 2019. The FMI puts this down to consumers looking for healthier, more environmentally-friendly options in their diet.

"Inflationary price increases certainly had a negative impact on the sale and consumption of seafood in 2022, with many shoppers turning to more affordable proteins as they adjusted their spending habits to the economic environment," said Rick Stein, vice president for fresh foods at FMI.

"However, seafood sales were up compared to 2019 despite elevated prices, indicating that shoppers who became more comfortable cooking seafood during the pandemic continue to appreciate the health benefits of preparing seafood at home. Given shoppers' increasing interest in health and well-being, adding more variety to their diet, and eating more sustainable foods in general, we expect the category to rebound once inflationary pressures ease."

Seafood is still outpaced by other protein sources

Poultry, meat and pork still reign when it comes to the protein preferences of US shoppers, with consumers purchasing these foods more than twice as often as seafood.  A quarter of those surveyed said they would choose seafood over other protein types, if all prices were equal. However, many more said they would choose chicken (32%) or beef (33%).

The report also found that 53% of shoppers are frequent (two or more times a week) or occasional (once a month to one time a week) seafood consumers, down from 59% in 2021. However, more than half said they cooked seafood more often, and are more comfortable doing so since the pandemic (47%), with the majority of frequent shoppers citing nutrition and health as a primary or important motivation (81%).

Consumers like to cook seafood at home – but find terminology confusing

The FMI report also found that a majority of consumers prepare and eat most of their seafood at home (53%), with 13% buying seafood partially or fully prepared at the grocery store. The research also found that 14% get their seafood via take-outs to eat at home, while 20% order seafood while dining at a restaurant. One in five seafood consumers prefer farm-raised produce, while 45% opt for wild-caught.

However, a level of confusion persists among consumers regarding seafood terminology and labelling. Forty-three percent either partially understand or are not sure what "wild-caught" means, while more than half say they are unclear on what "farm-raised" means.

"Aquaculture" in particular has shoppers stumped, with seven in ten consumers saying they do not know what the term actually means.

About the FMI and the Power of Seafood 2023 report

The 2023 report is FMI's fifth in-depth look at seafood consumption and buying habits through shopper's eyes. The report was conducted by FMI and made possible by Alaska Seafood, Cargill, and Riverence.

As The Food Industry Association, FMI works with and on behalf of the entire industry to advance a safer, healthier, and more efficient consumer food supply chain. FMI brings together a wide range of members across the value chain — from retailers that sell to consumers, to producers that supply food and other products, as well as the wide variety of companies supplying critical services — to amplify the collective work of the industry.

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