Rising consumer prices for seafood at US retail outlets continued to drive down sales volumes in March, extending months of sales declines.

Fresh seafood prices were 2.6 percent higher in March versus the same month last year. Frozen seafood prices were up 3.2 percent from last March, according to new IRI supermarket sales data compiled by market research firm 210 Analytics.

For the 52-week period ending April 2, the average price per unit of fresh seafood of $9.02 (€8.23) was 6.2 percent higher than the same period the year before. Frozen seafood prices during the same period were up 8.3 percent to an average price per unit of $10.48 (€9.57).

Fresh and frozen salmon prices in March were up 6.2 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively, over March of 2022. Fresh shrimp prices during the month were up 5 percent from March a year ago, but frozen shrimp prices fell 3.4 percent from a year ago.

The value of total frozen seafood sales of $723 million (€660 million) in March slipped 4.4 percent from last March, while units sold fell 7.4 percent.

The value of fresh seafood sales of $621 million (€566 million) during the month was off 2 percent from a year ago, while units sold slipped 4.5 percent. Sales of shelf-stable seafood were also down.

"For the first time in many months, inflation for total food and beverages stayed in the single digits," said Anne-Marie Roerink, CEO of 210 Analytics.

"The March 2023 average price per unit across all foods and beverages and channels increased 9.8 percent over March 2022, but sat 21.43 percent above the March 2021 and 27.4 percent above the March 2020 levels."

Brand power

The first quarter of 2023 showed continued private label brand growth as shoppers sought out less expensive alternatives, with dollar sales up 10.3 percent across items and channels, twice the gain of national brands that grew 5.6 percent. The dollar share of private brands rose to 19.1 percent and the unit share to 20.8 percent.

In the seafood department, private label brands also outperformed manufacturer brands, said Roerink.

In frozen seafood, private-brand items, which make up 61 percent of frozen seafood sales, were down 1.9 percent in year-over-year dollar sales in the first quarter versus a 5.1 percent decrease for manufacturer brands.

In shelf-stable seafood, private-brand items, which make up a mere 14 percent of total shelf-stable seafood sales, also outperformed manufacturer brands in dollar sales, at plus 18.2 percent versus plus 2 percent, respectively, according to the sales data.

Tracking trends in seafood markets