Consumers splashed out on seafood at Christmas with sales up 4.4 per cent compared with 2016, according to new market analysis from Seafish, the UK industry authority on seafood.
Across the UK, shoppers spent more than £171 million on over 14,800 tonnes of seafood during the two weeks to December 30, 2017, compared with £164 million in 2016 and £149 million in 2015.
Although the increase in sales values was driven by inflation – sales volumes of fresh and ambient seafood were both down year-on-year – the figures still show that consumers were prioritising treating themselves to something special over Christmas, despite having less to spend due to a year of rising prices and sluggish wage growth.
Salmon and both warm and cold-water prawns were among the nation’s biggest favourites over Christmas, and accounted for almost half (47 per cent) of all seafood sales value during the final two weeks of the year.
Meanwhile, basa, squid and cod saw the biggest increase in sales value out of the top 25 species, year-on-year, at 29.8 per cent, 17.5 per cent and 12.6 per cent respectively.
Frozen was the only sector to see an increase across sales volume (1 per cent), sales value (4.6 per cent) and unit sales (3.7 per cent) compared to the 2016 festive period. Frozen shrimps and frozen sardines experienced a significant increase of 2249.2 per cent and 2835.4 per cent respectively on 2016 sales volume. Frozen cod came out on top for total sales, with 1,383 tonnes sold over the 2017 Christmas fortnight, an increase of 7.8 per cent compared to 2016.
Sales of fresh seafood were up 4.2 per cent year on year at £114.9 million, compared with £110.2 million in 2016, as consumers tucked into traditional seasonal favourites such as salmon and prawns. Fresh seafood was the big winner in terms of sales volume in 2017 (7,339 tonnes), and enjoyed the largest jump in sales volume (12.6 per cent) compared to the previous two weeks. Fresh breaded and fresh battered seafood were the only segments to see a lift in both sales volume and value when compared to both the fortnight preceding Christmas and previous year.
A mixed success story in 2017, ambient seafood saw a 5 per cent increase on its Christmas 2016 sales value, but a 7.9 per cent decrease in overall sales volume. However, a number of ambient seafood species did enjoy both sales volume and value growth in comparison to the previous year, and to the fortnight before Christmas. These included anchovy, caviar, salmon roe, cod, and pollock.
Solidifying their status as the nation’s favourites, core species took the lion’s share of festive sales in 2017. Salmon, cod, tuna, cold and warm water prawns made up 62.2 per cent of total volume sales.
Frozen sardines were a success story during Christmas 2017. Despite only 8 tonnes being sold, this was a 2,835 per cent increase on the year before and an 88.6 per cent increase on the fortnight previous.
Reflecting the trend last year, Christmas 2017 also saw premium seafood products remain top of the festive menus. Consumers purchased 138.3 per cent more lobster in comparison with the previous fortnight, the most significant species increase in volume sales during Christmas period, with fresh lobster seeing an increase of 224.7 per cent. Scallops saw an increase in volume of 112.7 per cent.
Julia Brooks, market insight analyst at Seafish, comments: “These statistics are really encouraging for the seafood sector. Despite consumers facing rising prices and falling wages, they are still choosing to keep seafood on their festive menu and finding money to do so.
“It’s unsurprising that frozen has continued to see growth again this year. The sector has seen lower inflation than fresh and ambient and ranges are becoming more diverse. In December, retailers upped their standard frozen offering with convenient party ranges for special occasions, such as prawn rings, lobster thermidor and crab gratin.
“With the prospect of further inflation, people are shopping around to ensure they get value for money, meaning the growth of the discounters is set to continue. They are extending their reach geographically and developing their ranges to cover value and premium tiers.
“Whilst it’s good to see consumers happy to spend more on seafood, what remains important is that we also see the volume of seafood sales increase, meaning more people are getting their recommended two portions of seafood a week.”