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UK consumers buying less fish from retailers

Chilled salmon, frozen cod and chilled warmwater shrimp among the few products experiencing sales rise.

In 2015, UK seafood sales decreased slightly both in volumes and value -- 0.9 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively -- according to the latest data from market research company Nielsen.

Retailers sold 331,151 metric tons of seafood at £3.1 billion (€4 billion/$4.5 billion) of which 63.2 percent was chilled products, 22.2 percent frozen and 14.6 percent from ambient product sales.

In the 12 months to Jan. 2, 2016, chilled product sales saw a 1.1 percent increase in terms of value, accounting for £1.9 billion (€2.5 billion/$2.7 billion). However, in volume terms, this increase was only 0.3 percent year-on-year, amounting to total sales of 151,032 metric tons.

Sales of frozen products continued to decrease throughout the year, falling 3.4 percent in volume -- to 107,085 metric tons -- and 1 percent in value - to £689.7 million (€893 million/$994 million).

According to the statistics, the value of frozen product sales a year earlier accounted for 33.2 percent of the total share as oppose to the 22.2 percent they accounted for in 2015.

In the chilled aisle, salmon remains the best seller, with sales increasing 5.1 percent in volume -- from 42,209 metric tons sold in 2014 to 44,557 metric tons in 2015 -- and 1.8 percent in value, from £745 million (€964 million/$1.1 billion) to £758 million (€982 million/$1.1 billion) over the same period. 

However, salmon prices dropped to an average of £17.02 (€22/$24.5) per kilo in 2015, a 3.1 percent decrease compared with the year prior.

UK consumers spent the same amount of money on chilled cod, but they bought 4 percent more of this product in 2015 as average prices saw a 12.9 percent fall, down to £12.41 (€16.1/$17.9) per kilogram.

Warmwater shrimp sales were higher in 2015 than a year earlier, registering a 6.9 percent increase in terms of value, and a 5.7 percent increase in terms of volume, with consumers spending £151.3 million (€196 million/$218 million) for 8,524 metric tons of product.

Despite this year-on-year improvement, chilled warmwater shrimp sales did not reach 2013 levels, when retailers sold 10,389 metric tons worth £154 million (€199 million/$222 million).

During the year, chilled warmwater shrimp prices increased 1.1 percent per kilogram, while coldwater shrimp prices were sold at prices 6.6 percent higher than the year prior.

This rise of prices in coldwater shrimp provoked a switch from coldwater to warmwater shrimp, with consumers spending 0.8 percent less in coldwater, to buy 6.9 percent less product than the year before. Sales therefore fell to a total of 12,501 metric tons at £151 million (€196 million /$218 million).

Cod still winning the war on frozen

On the frozen side, cod is still the most sold product, registering a sales increase of 4.9 percent in value year-on-year and 3.4 percent in volume, to a total of 30,623 metric tons sold at £187 million (€242 million/$269 million).

The second most popular product in the frozen aisle was pollock, though sales of this species fell sharply in 2015, with customers spending £102 million (€132 million/$148 million) on 22,126 metric tons, down 22.5 percent and 19.6 percent, respectively, from last year’s £132 million (€171 million/$190 million) worth of 27,532 metric tons.

Although Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s are still in the lead on UK fish sales, the three retailers have seen sales constantly fall over the last 3 years.

On the other hand, discount retailers such as Aldi, Lidl and Iceland have seen an increase in their sales over the same period, the latter selling only frozen products.