Consumers are increasingly demanding easy-to-use food options that can quickly create a healthy meal. This trend has translated into the availability of more convenience or value-added fresh and frozen food products. In the produce department, for example, there has been a rise in the number of salad bowls and kits; and pre-prepared fruit and vegetables such as zucchini spirals and cauliflower rice. While in the meat department, shoppers can choose between kebabs, crumbed/marinated, slow-cooked and pre-cooked protein options. Ready-made meals in the freezer enable shoppers to have a meal on the table in minutes.
So how does seafood compare in the area of convenience and is there an opportunity for seafood producers to tap further into this growth trend?
Nielsen Homescan defines value-added or convenience food options as any products that are marinated, crumbed, cooked, ready-to-cook or come with a sauce. Data is collected for both the fresh and frozen value-added or convenience categories.
Nielsen Homescan indicates that these “convenience” categories are consistent pockets of growth pointing to a positive outlook for seafood producers looking to take advantage of this space. Over the past year, a third of Australian households have purchased value-added fresh fish and seafood and this number has increased by 3% compared to a year ago. Value-added products in fresh fish and seafood (excluding smoked) such as Almare Garlic Prawns or John West Lemon and Herb Salmon make up 20% of the fresh fish and seafood category. Like other fresh categories, value-added seafood is a key pocket of growth within the fish and seafood category with a dollar growth of 11.5% over the last year. Fish and seafood also have more value-added products than other protein options. While only 14% of fresh chicken is considered value-add in comparison to 20% in fresh fish.
While convenience options are a burgeoning category in the fresh department, frozen fish and seafood products have long had an association with ready-to-cook options. Fish fingers have been on the market for a long time—they were and still are considered a convenient, go-to option for a child’s meal. In frozen fish and seafood, over two-thirds of the products are a value-add. Frozen value-added fish and seafood is a relatively mature category and as such growth is modest—annual dollar sales remained relatively stable at 2.8% growth.
So where do the opportunities lie for Australian seafood producers, and which areas are ripe for innovation and resources?
Key convenience consumers
When we break the data down into different demographic groups a number of key consumer groups emerge. Senior couples, for example, are key consumers of quick and easy value-added fresh fish and seafood options, contributing to over a third of total dollar sales and 21% of the growth.
Seafood marketers and product developers should also take note of independent singles; households that consist of one adult 35 years old or more, and no children. This group may prefer not to cook from scratch for themselves and are attracted to pre-prepared, convenient options. In the past year they contributed 24% of dollar growth, despite representing only 17% of buyers.
Value-added frozen products continue to resonate with families looking for easy dinner options. Families purchase nearly a third of all frozen value-added fish and seafood; however, independent singles and senior couples are driving the dollar growth in this category.
Value-added in the U.S.
Many of the food trends we see in Australia follow those we track in the U.S. Looking at value-added fresh seafood in the U.S., we can see that there is potential for the growth of this category in the Australian marketplace.
In the U.S., value-added fresh seafood represents nearly a third of total seafood and is growing at a rate of 4.8% in dollar sales (52 weeks ended February 2019). The top three positions in the U.S.’s fish and seafood category have been consistently held by Atlantic salmon, prawn and crab over the last four years. Of those top-selling species, value-added products make up a significant proportion of both dollar sales and growth. For fresh Atlantic Salmon, value-added products make up a third of dollar sales, driving over half of the growth seen in the past year. Cedar-planked salmon is trending and has the potential for the Australian market where barbecues are a summer staple. For fresh prawns, value-add is half the category and accounted for nearly a third of dollar sales growth.
The strong performance of the value-added seafood category in the U.S. highlights that Australia has room to grow in this area and is a clear opportunity for local producers to increase the value of their products here.
Supermarkets drive quest for convenience
In general, supermarkets make up the majority (80%) of food purchases in Australia. As shoppers continue their quest for maximum convenience, major supermarkets have also become the dominant place for purchasing value-added/convenience seafood products. Major supermarkets make up 78% of fresh value-added fish and seafood dollar sales and at 88% of frozen value-added seafood, are claiming an even greater share in this convenience category.
Online a fresh produce frontier
Online food shopping is making life easier for many shoppers in Australia and is an area where fresh channels are lagging behind packaged goods.
However China, one of our largest export markets, demonstrates that growth is also possible in this space. In China, fresh categories were purchased by 54% of internet users in the past year; in Australia this number was 20%.
In general, fish and seafood is one of the categories that is less likely to be purchased online, and in the last year, only 7% of Australian households purchased fish and seafood online. Of that frozen value added fish and seafood makes up 40% of online sales. These products are given an edge in the online space with the use of protective packaging and portion amounts that are easy for shoppers to choose online.
For fresh fish and seafood to increase its share of the online market, shoppers need to have the confidence to buy fresh fish and seafood online. Enablers such as money-back guarantees or free delivery may help in the development of online shopping for fresh fish and seafood, as well as innovation in the protective packaging space to safeguard fresh produce.
Giving shoppers the confidence to purchase value-added fish and seafood products from any channel will help drive sales and consolidate fish and seafood in consumer’s minds as a quick, healthy convenient meal.
Nielsen Homescan for the 52 weeks to 16/05/2019
- Start-up Families: Households with oldest child <6 years
- Small Scale Families: Households with oldest child 6-11 years
- Bustling Families: Households with oldest child 12-17 years
- Young Transitionals: Adult households (no children <=17 years), Head of HH <35 years
- Independent Singles: 1 person adult household (no children <=17 years), Head of HH >=35 years
- Established Couples: 2 or more adults (no children <=17 years), Head of HH 35-59 years
- Senior Couples: 2 or more adults (no children <=17 years), Head of HH 60 years or over
- Major Supermarkets are defined as Woolworths + Coles + ALDI
- Other Supermarkets are defined as all other full service supermarkets