January, or "Veganuary" as it is called by the vegan community, wasn't a particularly good month for plant-based alternative seafood products at US supermarkets.
Dollars sales slid 12.1 percent to $888,319 (€832,207), compared to January 2022. Unit sales were off nearly 24 percent, according to new IRI supermarket sales data compiled by market research firm 210 Analytics.
The category, after showing some initial growth, contracted noticeably during the 13-week period ending Jan. 29, slipping 11.3 percent in dollar sales and 23.8 percent in units sold from the same period the year before.
The slowing sales of plant-based seafood alternatives mirrors a larger trend in the alternative meat category.
Combined refrigerated and frozen plant-based meat alternatives generated $89.6 million (€83.8 million) in January, said Anne-Marie Roerink, CEO of 210 Analytics.
This was down 2.7 percent from January of 2022. In addition to negative dollar growth, units and volume for total meat alternatives also declined versus year-ago levels, 21.8 percent and 19.6 percent, respectively.
Refrigerated plant-based meat alternatives were down for the month of January, the fourth quarter and all of 2022. At $28.6 million (€26.7 million), sales levels have fallen below January 2022 levels by 22.3 percent, Roerink said.
"When comparing the reduction over the full year versus January, it appears that the pullback on plant-based meat alternative assortment in the refrigerated areas is speeding up," she said.
Not dead yet
For the 52 weeks ending Jan. 29, however, the picture for plant-based seafood sales is more upbeat.
Sales of $11.3 million (€10.6 million) were up 12.3 percent over the same 52-week period the year before and up nearly 66 percent over the same period in 2020.
The number of plant-based seafood product units sold was up 3.2 percent for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 29 over the same period a year before and up nearly 44 percent since 2020.
While many seafood companies have criticized the products for their marketing messages -- with some alleging outright fraud -- an increasing number of major companies have embraced plant-based products as a part of their overall line.
Most notably, three of the largest fish finger suppliers to the UK and EU market -- Birds Eye and Iglo parent Nomad Foods, Germany-based Frosta and Young's Seafood parent Sofina -- launched plant-based "fish finger alternatives."
Nomad in particular is banking on the trend, creating a new "Green Cuisine" brand for its products, and marketing it heavily across its markets.
Other seafood groups have also moved into plant-based seafood, either via investment or partnership.
Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods, owned by seafood conglomerate Thai Union Group, itself one of the world's largest global shrimp suppliers, will partner with the Ish Food Company, a Pennsylvania-based plant-based shrimp maker.
- Here are the world's biggest land-based salmon farming projects
- Trident Seafoods puts another Alaska pollock product into 7-Eleven stores
- Is frozen fish better for the environment than fresh? It's complicated, Birds Eye parent warns
- Plant-based seafood producer will put salmon alternative in restaurants this year after VCs splash out the cash