The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Fish ‘stories’ could help sell fresh

Fish ‘stories’ could help sell fresh

Shoppers and Trends

December 26, 2010

The fresh seafood counter is often one of the most stunning departments in a supermarket. But if it is underperforming in the post-BP oil spill era, the reason could be seafood staffs that aren’t trained or equipped to tell shoppers about where fish come from, or their levels of freshness, quality or sustainability.

This could be a tough blow to absorb, especially with prices approaching $30 per pound on some species, and with much of the department’s inventory costlier than meat, dairy and other protein sources available in the food store.

Beyond improving the salesmanship of seafood staffs, The Lempert Report urges the use of signage and support materials that denote more than item/price. Think recipes, nutrients, sourcing, mercury levels, freshness and renewability – all to quell consumer concerns, romance the stories of undersea creatures, and inspire confidence in fresh seafood as a healthful purchase. Post the same information on the retail website – include links to authorities such as the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and marketing entities such as the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute – to add to the store’s own authority, and connect with people at home as they plan their store trips.

These efforts could help to dramatically differentiate a seafood department. According to findings of the latest biennial retailer survey conducted by Seafood Business, 53% said “lack of consumer knowledge” was their top concern, up from 40% in 2008.  Retailers’ next biggest issues were rising wholesale prices (42%), sustainability (30%) and consumer price resistance (29%).

By addressing these concerns directly, retailers could make seafood more than a showpiece. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, Americans ate less than 16 pounds per capita of seafood in 2009 vs. approximately 73 pounds of poultry and 110 pounds of red meat.  Also, The Journal of Foodservice reported in 2008 that just 22% of Americans and 19% of women of childbearing age ate seafood twice a week.

It’s time for education to lead the way.