GSMC 2018: Shrimp sector all smiles for 2018

IntraFish is blogging live from the NFI's Global Seafood Marketing Conference 2018. Keep checking back for all the updates.

Orca Bay President & CEO Ryan Mackey -- also NFI chairman -- closed the 2018 GSMC event, announcing that next year's conference will be at Loews Coronado Bay Jan. 15-17.

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Thursday, Jan. 25, 11:25 am EST

How seafood fits into meal kits

Meal kits are a growing area for seafood. Blue Apron had 880,000 active customers in 2016 and ended the year with just under $800 million in revenue.

The company said it’s dedicated to sustainability and will only buy yellow- and green-rated seafood products.

Fortune’s Lobster Graham is looking to take on other brands with new e-commerce fulfillment center and is planning to expand its meal kit product line. The home meal kit service is a $2 billion industry.

Blue Apron said consumers are interested in eating seafood but necessarily more unique seafood. Customers want shrimp, salmon and tuna. The company said they are 95 percent interested in serving consumers what they want right now versus introducing something unfamiliar.

--Rachel Sapin

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Thursday, Jan. 25, 10:55 am EST

Walmart, Amazon dominate US grocery sales

Sales have been challenging in the US grocery industry due to competition with behemoths such as Amazon and Walmart.

US grocers are seeing a perfect storm of pressures such as food deflation, hard discount competition and people shifting to online grocery shopping. Groceries is one of Walmart’s fastest growing areas.

Amazon will continue to disrupt the industry. The more Amazon can get folks to buy food from them, the more likely they will get consumers to buy other service offerings from them.

Meal kits are also replacing a trip to the grocery store.

--Rachel Sapin

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Thursday, Jan. 25, 10:33 am EST

We’re not in a recession but consumers are still deal-driven

There has been less than 1 percent growth in the restaurant/retail and food-at-home in the US when it comes to food service.

Consumers still prefer fast-casual and quick-serve eateries over other dining options, even with an improved economy.

In the next few years, off-premise growth (catering, to-go, delivery) will be where restaurants will see profit versus opening new establishments.

Fast casual may offer more value options to their menus to compete with quick serve.

--Rachel Sapin

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Thursday, Jan. 25, 9:15 am EST

US wild-caught shrimp has fans

US Gulf of Mexico shrimp demand remains regional, predominantly in the southern United States.

But attendees at the Global Seafood Market Conference were told that other parts of the country – the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic – have developed a preference for US-harvested, wild shrimp from the Gulf regions.

Production has softened since 2014 and earlier, but seems to have stabilized.

-- John Fiorillo

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Thursday, Jan. 25, 9:10 am EST

Thailand crawls back

If you look at the production numbers, Thailand’s shrimp production is well below peak levels of 2010 before EMS ravaged the country.

But that doesn’t tell the entire story. Farmers have changed farming practices as a result of the disease disaster.

Thailand has recovered from EMS but with fewer operating ponds, and new farming practices are yielding more efficient production, attendees at the Global Seafood Market Conference were told. Farmers are increasing tonnage with less acreage, and processing capacity has reduced to match lower farm output.

New practices in Thailand are more sustainable and environmentally sound, resulting in increases in the output per crop -- 40 tons/hectare year. This could increase to 60 tons per hectare in the next few years.

-- John Fiorillo

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Thursday, Jan. 25, 9:05 am EST

Happy times for shrimp

The mood among shrimp suppliers at the Global Seafood Market Conference is bullish. Global production has been steadily increasing since 2013 and is expected to continue to grow again in 2018.

As for disease, the consensus is things are under control globally, which, of course, contributes to production growth, and major Asian producers largely have stable to growing production.

Do we dare say the global shrimp market is stable?

-- John Fiorillo

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Thursday, Jan. 25, 9:00 am EST

The Chinese market

It's not new news but there is a pronounced feeling among the shrimp experts speaking at the Global Seafood Market conference that the demand for shrimp from the Chinese market is having a greater impact every year.

The chart below shows the strength of global export markets. Notice the red line -- that's China.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 3:00 pm EST

Tired of salmon or cod? Try these

What are consumers missing out on when they purchase the same old cod and salmon? Monkfish, croaker and walleye are all species where “the fishery is greater than the demand,” said panelists.

Pacific rockfish and orange roughy are making a comeback after declining supplies.

Barramundi is making a comeback as well thanks to celebrities such as Oprah promoting it. US barramundi imports were around 6,000,000 pounds in 2017, more than double what they were in 2015.

Rainbow trout, which is now being sold at Cracker Barrel and Bonefish Grill, was noted as an emerging fish in breakfast foods as well.

Yellowtail was also listed as an emerging species, even though it is common in US sushi restaurants.

--Rachel Sapin

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2:55 pm EST

Live from Norway

Russia and Alaska have been the drivers of the red king crab market, but Norway's nascent invasive species fishery on the crustacean is giving that country's suppliers an advantage in the exploding Asian live market.

Currently, Norway's king crab quota is around 2,000 metric tons, and while historically around 50 percent of that has gone into the live market, this year, that figure will more likely be 70 percent, according to Norway King Crab's Svein Ruud.

Russia is seeing the trend as well, and is shifting to more live crab harvesting vessels as well.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2:45 pm EST

Snow crab slowdown

Snow crab is 50 percent of crab sales at US foodservice operations. But both foodservice and retail buyers used less snow crab in 2017 because of high prices that have dominated the market for the past few years.

Global snow crab supplies slipped in 2016 and 2017 and projections are supplies will fall again this year. Both Canada and Alaska have lowered quotas for the upcoming season. So, there doesn't appear to be any relief on the horizon for the higher-cost snow crab market.

A glimmer of hope: Alaska is forecasting a potential rebound in snow crab stocks, perhaps as early as 2020.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2:30 pm EST

Lobster supplies tightening

After nearly a decade of rising lobster harvests in North America, supplies slipped in 2017, and further drops are possible.

The past five years of North American lobster harvest have been at record levels and this abundance has opened many new markets for lobster.

But as the supply tightens who will get the shellfish? China appears that it will continue strengthening its demand, and with a new trade agreement between Canada and European Union that removes tariffs on Canadian imports of lobster to the EU, more product could head in that direction.

As for the US market, where lobster has exploded on foodservice menus in recent years, it’s unclear if buyers will continue to buy, especially if prices rise noticeably.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 12:20 pm EST

Millenials want their seafood served on small plates and for breakfast

Millenials are driving the shared plate/small plate food trend in restaurants. They like the fact the plates are fun to share on social media as well as low-risk in terms of cost and portion size.

"They like to give their friends FOMO," said Lilani Estacio, marketing and communications manager of Orca Bay Seafoods.

Millenial chefs and consumers are looking for a healthy eating experience that also reduces waste by using more of the product.

Poke has been a star in this new trend, while alligator and octopus are lagging due to various reasons, including cost.

Seafood for breakfast (crab cakes, smoked salmon, seafood sausage) and seafood as meat (seafood charcuteries) are taking off in restaurants with brunch remaining a bright spot for the industry.

--Rachel Sapin

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 12:12 pm EST

The secret sauce

Hilton Group-owned The Saucy Fish Co. continues to make slow and steady strides in the US market in large part because it's on-trend with consumer needs and some of the barriers to seafood.

"Consumers want to see what they're buying and want to see what they're paying for that meal," said The Saucy Fish's Irene Moon.

"If I can see two portions, I know it's what I need for dinner," Moon said. "Having it with a sauce gives them that inspiration they're looking for."

Around 73 percent of the seafood sold in the UK is pre-packed, showing just where the trend might go.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 11:55 am EST

Breaking the salmon ceiling

US consumers do seem to have a ceiling on salmon price per pound, and it seems to float around $9 per pound.

Getting around that, according to one major buyer at the GSMC conference, requires some creative thinking.

While 6 oz portions have been one success story for the Florida-based retailer, meal kits and offerings like Saucy Fish are starting to gain traction.

"We have to get the customer to see 'What is this dinner going to cost me?' rather than 'What is the price per pound?'"

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 11:50 am EST

The next 'new' farmed salmon market

The US salmon market has nowhere to go but up, according to experts at the GSMC conference.

With the stronger US dollar and higher awareness of health benefits, the market looks set to embrace the fish in a big way.

One telling infographic came from analyst Andy Wink, showing salmon's contrast with Americans' other favorite proteins.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 11:45 am EST

Pettinger departing from Oregon Trawl Commission

Brad Pettinger will be steeping down as the director of the Oregon Trawl Commission in June after nearly 15 years with the organization that represents groundfish harvesters on the US west coast.

“I had hair when I started,” joked Pettinger.

The commission and the fishermen it represents have changed dramatically since Pettinger climbed aboard.

“Fifteen years ago restaurants and stores were saying they wouldn’t buy trawl fish because of environmental concerns,” he said.

So, the commission helped lead change in the fishery. Getting a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification was a big step, he said.

“We had to shrink the fleet, modify gear and close some fishing areas,” said Pettinger. For example, in 1994 there were roughly 500 vessels in the fishery. Today, 70 vessels operate in the fishery.

As for his future plans, Pettinger said he will be easing his way into retirement after he departs.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 10:50 am EST

Chilean mussels expanding

Chilean mussels exports to the US market have been growing since 2012. "It’s really taken off," one panelist told those attending the Global Seafood Market Conference.

Production from Chile is primarily going out as frozen.

On the domestic side, production from Washington, Maine and California is increasing and is expected to be strong in the coming years.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 10:30 am EST

Climate change hitting clams

Climate change is having a noticeable impact on the US wild clam fishery for Atlantic surf and quahog clams, attendees at the Global Seafood Market Conference were told.

Weather patterns due to climate change and a very active hurricane season in the Atlantic prevented necessary inventory building in 2017. Higher ocean temperatures, stronger winds – which hinder fishing operations – are all elements of climate change that is affecting clam harvesters.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 10:20 am EST

Turkey eyes US for sea bass

Turkey is seeing a boom in EU sea bass exports to the United States.

While the US is not Turkey’s primary export destination, it's a growing market. One mitigating factor is Turkey's limited ability to ship to the US.

--Rachel Sapin

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 10:15 am EST

The poke bump

A snap poll on the trends driving the US tuna market showed that over 54 percent thought consumer trends were the key driver, followed by stable supply (27 percent) and stable price points (15 percent).

Improved quality -- think what you want about this -- was only cited by 4 percent of respondents as the reason behind the expansion.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 10:00 am EST

Boom times for scallops

There will be more scallops on the global market this year and that could continue to soften prices for US scallops.

More supply is coming from the United States and Japan this year.

The high prices of scallops in recent years has led to the removal of scallops from many menus but likely you will see scallops making their way back onto menus as center-of-the-plate options and appetizers.

The US season starts April 1 and projections are for 60 million pounds, which would be a boom year for scallops, attendees were told at the Global Seafood Marketing Conference.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 9:00 am EST

Grains and soybeans

With 40 percent of the US corn supply going to ethanol and demand for ethanol gasoline declining, where will the corn go?

Livestock and protein remain next best option of grains and soybeans producers. This could drive down prices for livestock protein.

Also, global markets want more protein, and cheaper feed makes the United States competitive in export markets, Michael Swanson of Wells Fargo bank told attendees at the Global Seafood Market Conference.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 5:00 pm EST

Good times for haddock

The performance of haddock in the US and European markets hinges a lot on what its cousin cod is doing.

Global production reached a height of 428,000 metric tons in 2012 but has settled back to its more long-term levels of 300,000 to 350,000 metric tons.

As the global cod supply decreases and prices increase, haddock becomes a popular choice among whitefish buyers.

Across all US restaurant segments – independents to large chains – sales increased from October to September last year compared with the year prior across all regions of the US market, reports NPD group.

Prices bottomed out last year, but could bounce back going forward, in part because of increasing demand resulting from a shortage in cod in the near term.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 4:30 pm EST

Where is the US pangasius market headed?

Will the US market for pangasius matter in the five years?

That was the question posed to a panel of whitefish experts at Tuesday’s Global Seafood Market Conference.

The answer is unclear because there is plenty of uncertainty in the US market at the moment, and there is growing demand for China for pangasius from Vietnam, the global leader in production.

Global production worldwide continues to increase and could hit nearly 3 million metric tons this year. This will, of course, depend on whether Vietnam will achieve its goal of producing 1.3 million metric tons.

This is far from certain given two major issues: weather and fingerling mortality. Efforts are underway to solve the fingerling crisis, but the cycle for fixing this issue is at least 12 months, but likely longer.

Countries such as India and Bangledesh are increasing their production but neither yet has the cold chain needed to begin exporting product in a significant manner, the panelists said. Consequently, much of the production is consume domestically.

As far as the fish’s performance with US consumers, medium and larger chains are shying away from the product, in part due to uncertainty about how the fledgling USDA inspection program might eventually affect supply.

-- John Fiorillo

Tuesday, Jan. 23, 4:45 pm EST

Spring in their step

"What a difference a few months makes in this business," American Seafoods' Rasmus Soerensen said of the Alaska pollock market.

The further away the industry gets from the 2015 collapse of Pacific Andes and the oversupply it caused, the better the industry seems to have done.

With the excess inventory completely gone, Alaska pollock supplies are more committed than ever going into 2018.

"We went from an oversupply to an undersupply in a matter of a few weeks this fall," Soerensen said.

It's not just a rebound in PBO blocks, it's also a global rise in demand for deepskin pollock, a shortage in the cod market and a lot of creative initiatives for new products.

"It's not the first time the pollock industry has tried to innovate into taking more share, but perhaps the timing is right," Soerensen said.

While surimi and deep-skinned products were the "winners" in 2017, resulting in around a 25,000 metric ton reduction in demand, the core products of block and surimi are seeing "incredible demand."

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 4:30 pm EST

Getting the patient on the table

One of the more challenging aspects of frozen tilapia's decline is understanding why.

Doug Brinsmade, director of foodservice at The Fishin' Company, said that while quality and reputation may have been in part a reason for its disfavor, "when Mr. Trump became president, it became about China."

While tilapia was the "mainframe computer" of the seafood industry ("It was in a big room and it took up a lot of space") when it first came onto the market, it's current decline means that now more than ever it needs promotion.

One major foodservice buyer on the panel noted that the attributes that made tilapia so popular haven't changed -- "[it's] mild, not offensive and a clean slate" for flavors.

"We need to think about how we can focus on those positive adjectives," he said.

--Drew Cherry

Tuesday, Jan. 23, 3:30 pm EST

What is seafood’s chicken nugget? The answer could help seafood awareness in the United States. The average American consumes three times more chicken than the 1960s. The industry has Chicken McNuggets to thank for that.

The nuggets used parts of the bird that were previously underutilized and made chicken nuggets a staple in children’s diets.

Boston Market going public in the 1990s and introducing consumers to rotisserie chicken as well as Buffalo Wild Wings expanding the wing concept made chicken even more accessible to the mainstream.

Making chicken value-added also increased consumption over the decades.

--Rachel Sapin

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 3:00 pm EST

Not all proteins are equal

Protein consumption in the United Sates has steadily increased since the ‘70s. What is really critical for seafood sellers is that the millennial consumers purchase protein at a much higher rate than all other consumers.

Half of millennials and 69 percent of caucasians are actively seeking more protein in their diet, and 56 percent of millennials have increased protein intake in last year versus 19 percent of Boomers, Ron Rogness told attendees at the Global Seafood Market Conference.

Millennials are increasing protein consumption largely to be healthier, but worrisome is that much of this protein is coming from non-seafood sources, despite the fact seafood is lower in fat and calories than millennial protein favorites such as nuts and power bars.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2:20 pm EST

More good news

New estimates from American Seafoods' Ron Rogness and NFI analysts estimate we'll get some good news when 2017 seafood consumption numbers are counted.

Rogness estimates we'll see a per capita consumption of 15.5 pounds -- that's a 4 percent rise.

Taking salmon's volatility out of the equation, per capita consumption is actually showing a nice steady increase over the past three years.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2:20 pm EST

The 'salmon bounce'

American Seafoods' Ron Rogness expects the 2017 data will show a 232 million pound increase in salmon consumption in 2017, a turnaround from a sharp decline in 2016. It's important to note, however salmon is volatile, both in farmed pricing and wild supply, which tilts the figures.

Shrimp sales are expected to spike as well, by 129 million pounds.

Pangasius and tilapia are expected to decline by a combined 76 million pounds, while pollock consumption is expected to slip slightly, by around 8 million pounds.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2:20 pm EST

This doesn't look good

Tilapia is in bigger and bigger trouble that you might fear.

Across all systems at broadline, tilapia sales have fallen by 3.7 million pounds over the past two years, a 9.2 percent growth for the 12 months through September 2017.

It hasn't been helped by 23 percent of the 4,600 new stories on the fish being negative.

"If that continues, we could be looking at 4.5 million pounds decline this time next year,"Mike Seidel, director of category management at Performance Food Service told the GSMC audience.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2:15 pm EST

Seafood morning breath?

Hand-helds. No, it's not a walkie talkie. It's an opportunity for seafood. Making fish easy to eat, and easy to carry, can open up new avenues for the industry.

And though fried fish may not sound like a breakfast item, what about shrimp or smoked salmon? Consumers are biting, Tim Fires, executive director of The NPD Group said.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2:00 pm EST

Who's eating seafood at US broadline?

The Mid and South Atlantic are leading the way in increasing their seafood consumption, according to new data from the NPD group.

Though the Mid Atlantic takes a relatively small volume (being a relatively small segmentation in NPD's data), sales there went up by 6 percent by volume to 80 million pounds.

The South Atlantic continues to dominate in seafood consumption, with 309 million pounds, a rise of 5 percent.

The fish-loving Pacific-Mountain region continues to chow down on seafood -- volume sales there were at 162 million pounds, a rise of 3 percent.

The big work, though, needs to happen in the West North Central -- consumers eat just 50 million pounds, down 2 percent over the last year.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2:03 pm EST

Changing the way foodservice looks

The silver lining in the news that the number of US restaurants is shrinking is that younger consumers and food trends appear to offer opportunities for seafood.

There are fewer operators, but the ones out there a doing really well,” Tim Fires, executive director of the NPD Group told attendees at the opening session of the Global Seafood Market Conference in Miami. “We’re changing the way foodservice looks.”

Central to this change is a boost in the number of consumers between the ages of 25 and 34 who are getting their meals away from home.

These consumers, Fires noted, order meals from food delivery services, purchase “restaurant” style meals from supermarkets and frequent fast-casual restaurants.

These consumers are focused on foods that are perceived to be natural, authentic and nutritious, according to NPD research. And as has been happening for several years now, inspired by popular diets such a the paleo diet, consumers are looking to increase their protein consumption – which is beneficial for seafood.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2:03 pm EST

Seafood on the rise at broadline

Great news: seafood sales at broadline distribution is on the rise. Yes, chicken, pork and ground beef still hold the top three spots, but seafood pounds sold grew by 3.4 percent to 953 million pounds -- the No. 1 for growth.

It's the same story in dollar terms: seafood is the No. 2 protein there with $5.2 billion sold, with a 7 percent rise over the past year to September 2017.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1:40 pm EST

Yeah, it's important

What typically seems like a boring fine print presentation, the anti-trust guidelines gained a little more attention from the audience at the Global Seafood Marketing Conference this year.

Given some of the recent court cases, and the US government's willingness to go after any collusive behavior, it's kind of a big deal.

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, 11:00 am EST

Welcome to Miami

The Florida weather is cloudy but warm as several hundred attendees start to gather for the National Fisheries Institute's (NFI) Global Seafood Marketing Conference 2018.

The lineup includes several notable names such as American Seafoods Group Sustainability & Corporate Relations VP Ron Rogness and Blue Harvest Fisheries CEO Jeff Davis.

Tuesday's opening plenary dives into macro trends in seafood sales as well as protein's rising popularity.

We'll be updating this blog over the next three days in real-time with news, video and tweets.

-- IntraFish Media

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