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Wholesale Salmon Sales Soar: Customer Preferences Shift Toward Healthier Seafood in the SF Bay Area

Salmon is a particularly nutrient-rich fish, which appeals to increasingly health-conscious customers. Image source: Flickr CC user Sharon Chen

Health conscious consumers in the Bay Area are seeking out nutrient-rich foods–as witnessed by our residents’ love for vegetable juices, kale, nut butters, and lentils–and that means they’re also looking for seafood that’s rich in nutrients as well, like omega-3. There’s a big difference between wild salmon, which is incredibly rich in omega-3 and other nutrients, and some other types of fish which, although are often a great source of protein, can be nearly devoid of omega-3s. As we all pay closer attention to nutrition, how have our seafood sales changed? And how can we keep up with consumers’ preferences?

One of the best parts about being a seafood enthusiast are all the incredibly delicious choices I have at my local seafood counter here in the East Bay, from local Bay Area specialties like ling cod and yellowtail rockfish to beautiful lobsters from Maine. Everything looks so good in the display case that it can be hard to make a decision about what seafood to buy. An important part of maintaining and increasing sales of seafood is understanding exactly what our customers are looking for when faced with many different seafood choices. It’s not just about flavor, texture, and the right recipe, it’s also increasingly becoming about nutrition.

And seafood products are not all at the same level when it comes to nutrition. Health conscious consumers in the Bay Area are seeking out nutrient-rich foods–as witnessed by our residents’ love for vegetable juices, kale, nut butters, and lentils–and that means they’re also looking for seafood that’s rich in nutrients as well, like omega-3. There’s a big difference between wild salmon, which is incredibly rich in omega-3 and other nutrients, and farmed tilapia, which, although a great source of protein, is nearly devoid of omega-3s. As our consumers pay closer attention to nutrition, how have our seafood sales changed? And how can we keep up with consumers’ preferences?

Consumer Preferences Are Shifting

This past year, we’ve witnessed consumer preferences making a subtle, but definitive shift towards healthier seafood. Wild and farmed salmon sales rose 3.4% to $290.5 million in grocery stores nationwide, even though the average price rose 2.4% to $7.98 a pound. Sea bass, trout, haddock, and halibut also increased their sales by double-digits earlier this year.

Tilapia sales, on the other hand, actually fell 19.7 percent to $111.7 million, despite an average drop in sale price by 6.4% to USD 3.67 per pound. Catfish sales in grocery stores also fell by 6.9% to $51.4 million in the second quarter of 2016, even though the price of catfish dropped about 4% to an average of $4.37 a pound.

So what does this tell us? Salmon may just be following a steady trend upwards in popularity–it’s pretty tasty, after all–but that doesn’t explain the drop in tilapia and catfish sales, or the increase in sales of other nutrient-dense fish. These seem to suggest that consumers are looking to add extra healthy fish to their diets. Shoppers may also be switching to fish that take well to grilling, rather than the less healthy option of frying. As all of our customers live in or near San Francisco, consistently rated as one of the healthiest cities in America, you can bet they are also following this trend.

What Does This Mean for Vendors?

Of course you usually keep salmon stocked for your customers, but you’ll probably want to look at slowly increasing your orders of wild and farmed salmon to meet growing demand.

Be sure to showcase your most highly nutritious seafood–feature recipes for salmon and other nutrient-dense seafood, such as trout and halibut, on social media, in a newsletter, or right at the counter to draw in new customers and inspire loyal ones. Stay away from unhealthy recipes, such as anything fried in oil or butter.

Train your seafood clerks on specific knowledge about nutrients in salmon and other seafood. Seafood packages do not always have nutritional information, especially when we just order fillets, so it’s up to us and our customers to look it up. Offer customers and clerks resources for learning more about specific types of seafood:

  • Seafood Nutrition Facts: Making Smart Choices: This is a broad overview of the calories, protein, fat, cholesterol, vitamins, and minerals found in fish and shellfish in general, alongside health benefits for the heart, brain, eyes, and muscles. It does not offer this information for specific types of seafood, but it is a good reminder of the importance of eating seafood for health, and offers a printable PDF with this information.
  • Superior Fish Company’s Seafood Nutritional Chart: This chart really digs into the specifics of many different types of seafood, including total calories, grams of protein, carbs, total fat, saturated fat, omega-3, cholesterol, and sodium. This chart even breaks down different types of salmon, from king to pink! You’ll find that some of the items on the list are served primarily on the east coast, but the majority of them are common types of seafood that we sell here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • FDA’s Seafood Nutrition Facts: Covering 21 different species, this chart does not have as many types of seafood as the previous link. However, it does dig deeper into the composition of nutrients of each seafood item, offering info on potassium, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C in addition to everything the Superior Fish Company’s chart covers.

These resources are great for quick checks, but consider creating and printing out nutritional fact sheets (with recipes) specific to the types of seafood you are currently carrying that you can send home with customers. They’ll appreciate the extra step you are taking to keep them and their families informed about their seafood options.

Promoting nutrient-rich seafood choices is great for customers and for our sales, it’s important not to devalue other seafood. For tilapia, catfish, and other white fish that may not benefit as much from these efforts, we can compensate by focusing on them as sources of lean protein and as good choices for sustainability. Purchase ocean-friendly fish and offer your customers information about how and why they are sustainable alongside easy and tasty recipes.

Keeping Up With Consumers

Establishing trust and loyalty with Bay Area customers is more than just offering high quality seafood; it’s about showing them that you truly hear what they want and actively change your selections to match. Order your nutritious–and sustainable–seafood from a distributor that cares about you, your customers, and the ocean, Pucci Foods.

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