Kantar Worldpanel ( BIM.ie ) has reported that in 2016 the fish retail category continued to experience growth in value terms of 2.6%, ahead of the previous year. The fish category is now valued at €239.3m or 2.1% of total Irish grocery spend, placing it higher than both lamb (1.1%) and pork (1.1%). This growth can be attributed to higher price points in the fresh fish category, an increase in volume purchased per shopping trip as well as consumers switching from other meats.
Fresh fish is the most expensive protein in the domestic market costing an estimated €14.21 per kg in comparison to other meats such as lamb (€11.19 per kg), beef (€9.14 per kg) and poultry (€5.76 per kg). Fresh fish is relatively price inelastic, meaning that the increase in price has not stopped consumers from purchasing.
Currently, fresh fish continues to outperform frozen fish, with a significant number of frozen fish shoppers switching spending to fresh fish and poultry and due to a rise in consumer health consciousness. Fresh fish products recorded sales value growth of 5.5% year-on-year with sales in this category now valued at over €170m per year.
Within the fresh fish category, prepacked fish experienced an 8% increase in value in the Irish retail market whereas frozen fish decreased by 3.9% in comparison to 2015 value figures, illustrating that shoppers are opting for fish products found in the aisles rather than at the fish counter.
By contrast, frozen fish has declined as a category, losing value through lower penetration and lower volumes per shopping trips, despite an overall increase in the frozen category. The total spend on frozen fish declined by almost 4% over this period, and is now valued at €69m. Within the category, branded products declined more in sales than private label products.
The distinction between fresh and frozen fish is most evident in the differences among shoppers. Fresh fish is most popular among older shoppers, while frozen fish over-indexes among families. This suggests that health and convenience are the respective lifestyle trends motivating shoppers when purchasing fish. Ready to cook fresh fish has also increased substantially in popularity.
Frequency of purchase was the most significant purchase driver of fresh fish. Within the category, salmon was purchased with the highest frequency, followed by prawns, cod, hake, mackerel, coley, trout and whiting.
Irish shoppers’ lifestyles are becoming busier and they are placing a greater premium on their health. Opportunities therefore exist for producers to highlight the health benefits of fish on their packaging. Seafood companies can clearly communicate the health benefits of fish (high in protein, low in fat), and investigate potential ‘free-from’ NPD (e.g. gluten-free coated fish) in order to link their products to current health and wellness trends. Frozen seafood producers can fight the decline within their category by highlighting the health benefits of their product, and by targeting time poor, on-the-go families with the convenience merits of frozen fish products.
The seafood sector offers great potential for expansion as global demand for seafood as a healthy premium protein increases. Over the next decade, consumption is projected to grow by 42 million tonnes per annum according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation as the world population is set to reach 8bn by 2025. The latest figures show that the Irish seafood sector contributes over €1.1bn to GDP with exports accounting for €563m in 2016. While poor volumes for some key export species has had an overall negative impact on the value of exports sold in 2016, average unit prices actually increased during this period which demonstrates the on-going strength of demand in most key markets.
European markets, specifically France, Spain, Italy and Germany, continue to dominate Irish seafood exports and showed strong signs of recovery in 2016, accounting for an estimated 65% of total export values, worth approx. €365million. France remains the largest export market which delivered 9% growth in value and almost 4% in volume, export species mainly consist of salmon and shellfish.
The main African markets include: Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt and Ghana accounting for a total of 10% of total seafood export values which represents a drop of 10% compared to same period in 2015.
Exports to the four main Asian markets (China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan) increased by 2% in value terms up to the end of September 2016. Strong value rises were recorded to China (+32%) and Japan (+55%) during the period. Exports to South Korea decreased in value terms by 8% whilst exports to Hong Kong rose by 13% in value.