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Euromonitor: Seafood sales stagnate at French retailers

While sales of salmon have recovered, prices may be too high for consumers.

Market Highlights

  • Fish and seafood stagnates in 2015 at 317,000 metric tons while retail volume declines by 1 percent
  • In spite of the recovery of sales of salmon, unit prices remain too high for many French consumers
  • Molluscs and cephalopods registers the most dynamic growth increasing by 5 percent in total volume terms in 2015
  • Fish and seafood is set to decline by 2 percent in total volume terms over the forecast period, falling to 310,000 metric tons in 2020

French consumers failed to return to fishmongers’ stalls in 2015. However, the decline in traffic in fresh fish and seafood departments dropped less in 2015 than in the middle of the review period.

There were also promising signs within some products in 2015, particularly within salmon, which suddenly recovered after two years of rapid decline.

However, other than mussels and the niche of langoustines, most other mainstream species of fish and seafood continued to drop notably due to the high unit prices of these products and the lack of convenience for most French consumers.

As a result, 2015 was another year of decline in total volume and retail volume terms for fresh fish and seafood. Total volume waned very slightly while in retail volume it declined by 1 percent in 2015.

In total volume terms, this was an improvement on the negative CAGR of 3 percent recorded over the review period, and especially the crisis of 2013, when the category bore the brunt of the massive drop in sales of fresh and processed salmon.

Salmon and cod remain key drivers

The ongoing drop seen in the overall category in 2015 was mainly the result of fish declining by 4 percent in total volume terms and 2 percent in retail volume terms. Its fate is strongly correlated with sales of salmon and cod, with these two species accounting for 40 percent of retail volume sales according to France Agrimer.

In 2015, salmon managed to raise its head above the water and reconquer its status as the most consumed fish in France thanks to more accessible prices and improved quality guarantees compared to 2013 and 2014.

Negative press on salmon farming conditions and fears over the use of harmful substances impacted the popularity of salmon in France in 2013 and 2014.

Consumers switched to cod, which overtook salmon in popularity, but only for one year. The sudden rise in cod prices in 2015 and the weakening of the salmon scandal resulted in a drastic drop in volume sales of cod, which dragged down the performance of the whole fresh fish category.

Shellfish big winners with French

Up 5 percent in total volume and 1 percent in retail volume, molluscs and cephalopods was the only category with positive growth in both these terms. While oysters and mainly scallops remain the choice ingredient for special occasions, French consumers continued to rush to mussels in 2015.

Owing to the cheap price and rather convenient cooking, mussels enjoyed steady growth in 2015. Accounting for almost half of molluscs and cephalopods volume sales, this little mollusc was the most consumed species by French consumers according to statistics from the trade association France Agrimer.

The other winner was cephalopods which posted positive volume growth probably thanks to its popularity as a grilled food during the warm spring and summer in France in 2015.

Organic: Growth, but small share

With prices remaining too high for many consumers, organic products only accounted for a 1 percent total volume share within fresh fish and seafood. According to trade press, only 1 percent of companies working in organic products in France specialized in fresh fish and seafood in 2015.

Even so, this niche enjoyed impressive double-digit growth between 2013 and 2015, in total volume terms, due to the demand for safer and healthier products following the salmon scandal.

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This seafood market update is provided to IntraFish by Euromonitor International, the world’s leading independent provider of strategic market research. The company offers unbiased historic trends and forecasts for every region, country, category, channel and consumer. For more information on Euromonitor and its services for the seafood sector visit its website here.