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Fish and Seafood Trends in the U.S.

The fish and seafood industry is at a challenging crossroads. Dollar sales are up, yet unit sales and volume sales are down. Consumers look to fish and seafood as a healthier source of protein than meat and poultry, yet they worry more about spoilage and contamination of fish than they do of meat. In addition, marketers and retailers remain wary of aquaculture products even as they are urged by government and non-governmental agencies and marketers, retailers and foodservice operators to be concerned about the sustainability of major fish and seafood species.

Despite all the contradictions, Packaged Facts estimates that total retail sales of fish and seafood products exceeded $14.7 billion in 2012, up from $13.3 billion in 2008. The growth in dollar sales was offset by declines in both unit sales and volume sales in most retail fish and seafood categories, with the exceptions of the frozen fish/seafood segment (which includes both prepared and non-prepared fish and seafood products) and frozen raw shrimp.

The recessionary economy of 2008-2012 takes the blame for the unit and volume sales slowdown. Consumer use of private label alternatives to branded fish and seafood products took a giant leap forward between 2008 and 2012, going from less than 4% to over 30% over the four-year period as shopper wallets shrank and spending caution surged. 

Going forward, the pace and robustness of the recovery will determine how overall sales improve for fish and seafood and which of the various categories will enjoy the highest growth. Packaged Facts projects that the retail market for fish and seafood will grow to $17.1 billion by 2017, with the overall compound annual growth rate for the retail fish and seafood market projected at 3.1% for the period.

Scope and Methodology

Fish and Seafood Trends in the U.S. covers the market for fish and seafood products sold through all types of retail outlets, including supermarkets, discount stores and supercenters, warehouse clubs, and mass merchandisers, as well as convenience stores, drugstores, health and natural food stores, dollar stores, farms and farmers markets. The markets for fresh, refrigerated, frozen, and shelf-stable fish and seafood, in both processed and unprocessed forms are covered, as well as their usage in the foodservice industry.

Market estimates within this report were based on both public and syndicated data sources. Packaged Facts has analyzed available sales and trend data, together with information pertaining to those products that move through unmonitored outlets, to estimate the total meat and poultry market size.

Primary data sources include:

A proprietary Packaged Facts National Online Consumer Survey completed in June 2013.

IRI sales tracking through U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores, drugstores, and mass merchandisers (including Target and Kmart, but excluding Walmart) with annual sales of $2 million or more. The data used in the report is for the 52-week period ending Feb 24, 2013.

Seafood catch and market data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce

U.S. Census Bureau retail food sales data from the Economic Census surveys, annual retail channel sales, non-employer statistics

U.S. Bureau of Economic analysis annual estimates for consumer spending by food type

Data from individual company annual reports, trade and general business publications

Consumer demographics  data from the 12-Month Fall 2012 Simmons National Consumer Survey Adult Study Base from Experian Marketing Services.

Information on new product introductions derived from an examination of the retail milieu and from relevant trade, business, and government sources, including company literature, websites, and annual reports.


  • Executive Summary
    • Scope of Report
      • Scope of Market and Product Coverage
      • Methodology
      • Sales and Market Size
      • Consumer Use Data
      • Product Information
    • The Market
      • Fish and Seafood in American Life
      • Market Participants
      • Product Distribution
    • Regulation
      • Government Agencies
      • Trade Associations
    • Market Size
      • Fish and Seafood Retail Sales Topped $14.7 Billion in 2012
        • Table Fish and Seafood Retail Sales 2008-2012 (in millions $)
        • Table IRI-Tracked Unit and Volume Sales of Fish and Seafood: By Category, Percent Change 2012 vs. 2008
    • Market Trends
      • Recession Dominates Market Development
      • Private Label Leaps Upward in Fish and Seafood Market
        • Table Private Label Share of Fish and Seafood Sales, 2012 vs. 2008
      • Health Concerns Rise in Importance
      • Choosing Fresh Fish Over Meat or Poultry
        • Table Tendency to Choose Fresh Fish Over Meat/Poultry for Healthfulness, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
    • Market Forecast
      • Market to Top $17 Billion by 2017
        • Table Fish and Seafood Retail Sales 2012-2017 (in millions $)
    • The Competitive Environment
      • Billion Dollar Companies Lead Market
    • Product Trends
      • Products Targeted to Most Eager Consumers
      • Convenience Drives Product Development
    • Retail and Foodservice Trends
    • The Consumer
      • Consumer Have Many Concerns
  • Market Overview
    • Key Points
    • Fish and Seafood in American Life
      • High Level of Consumption
    • Types of Fish and Shellfish Consumed
    • Market Participants
    • Fish and Seafood Distribution
    • Key Issues
      • Consolidation
      • Sustainability
      • Aquaculture
      • Food Safety
        • Table Spoilage/Contamination Issues as a Deterrent to Purchasing of Fresh Fish/Seafood, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
        • Table Spoilage/Contamination Issues as a Deterrent to Purchasing of Fresh Meat/Poultry, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
    • Fish and Seafood Regulation
      • At the Federal Level
      • Other Relevant Government Agencies
      • State and Regional Organizations
      • Industry Associations
      • Non-Governmental Research and Certification Organizations
  • Market Size and Trends
    • Key Points
    • Market Size
      • Fish and Seafood Retail Sales Topped $14.7 Billion in 2012
        • Table Fish and Seafood Retail Sales 2008-2012 (in millions $)
        • Table IRI-Tracked Unit Sales of Fish and Seafood: By Category, 2012 vs. 2008
        • Table IRI-Tracked Volume Sales of Fish and Seafood: By Category, 2012 vs. 2008 (in millions of pounds)
      • Mixed Recovery for Fish and Seafood
        • Table Relative Frequency of Raw Fish/Seafood Purchases, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
        • Table Perceived Healthfulness of Fresh Fish/Seafood vs. Frozen, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
        • Table Taste Preferences: Fresh Fish/Seafood vs. Frozen, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
        • Table IRI-Tracked Unit Sales of Fish and Seafood: By Category, 2012 vs. 2011 and 2012 vs. 2008
        • Table IRI-Tracked Volume Sales of Fish and Seafood: By Category, 2012 vs. 2008 (in millions of pounds)
    • Market Share by Category
      • Fresh Shellfish Tops All Segments
      • Shellfish Outgains Fin Fish in Fresh Category
        • Table Retail Fresh Fish and Seafood Sales by 2008-2012 (in millions $)
      • Modest Sales Gains for Shelf-Stable Products
        • Table Retail Shelf-Stable Fish and Seafood Sales by 2008-2012 (in millions $)
      • Prepared Fish Segment Tops Frozen Fish and Seafood Category
        • Table Retail Frozen Fish and Seafood Sales by 2008-2012 (in millions $)
    • Market Trends
      • The Recession and Market Shifts
        • Table Purchase a Lot of Groceries On Sale or Promotion
        • Table Opinions on Private Label (percent)
      • Private Label Leaps Upward in Fish and Seafood Market
        • Table Private Label Share of Fish and Seafood Sales, 2012 vs. 2008
      • Health Concerns Rise in Importance
        • Table Grocery Product Manufacturers Should Do More to Help Consumers Eat More Healthily (percent)
        • Table Preference for Nutritionally Enhanced Food and Beverage Products (percent)
        • Table Resistance to Highly Processed Foods (percent)
      • Food Safety Concerns of Consumers
        • Table Ingredient and Labeling Interest When Shopping (percent)
      • Choosing Fresh Fish Over Meat or Poultry
        • Table Tendency to Choose Fresh Fish Over Meat/Poultry for Healthfulness, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
      • Vegan Seafood Substitutes Are Launched
        • Table Frequency of Meatless Meals, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
      • Demographic Shifts Impacting the Market
    • Market Forecast
      • Market to Top $17 Billion by 2017
        • Table Fish and Seafood Retail Sales 2012-2017 (in millions $)
    • Opportunities for Growth
      • Waiting on the Recovery
      • Collective Industry Advertising
      • Addressing Sustainability
        • Table Importance of Sustainability/Environmental Issues When Making Meat/Poultry/Seafood Purchasing Decisions, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
      • True Identity
      • Social Networking
      • Fish and Seafood Can Leverage Locavore Movement
  • Competitive Trends
    • Key Points
    • The Competitive Environment
    • Challenges to Identifying Market Leaders
    • Leading Marketers
      • Leading Companies are "Source" Companies
      • "Source" Company Snapshots
      • Shelf-Stable Fish and Seafood Leaders
      • Refrigerated Fish and Seafood Leaders
      • Frozen Fish and Seafood Leaders
      • Category Leaders
    • Competitive Issues and Trends
      • A Tightening Market
        • Table Founding Dates of Leading Fish and Seafood Category Participants
        • Table Growth Activity of Selected Leading Fish and Seafood Category Participants
      • Competing at Point-of-Purchase
  • Product Trends and Opportunities
    • Key Points
    • Products Targeted to Most Eager Consumers
    • Fish and Seafood Marketers Cater to Foodies
      • Table Foodie Tendencies (percent)
    • Convenience Drives Product Development
    • Sustainability, Ethical Practices Gain Traction
      • Table Interest in Environmental Issues When Choosing Food Products (percent)
      • Table Importance of Non-GMO Labeling on Grocery Purchases, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
      • Tilapia Continues to Thrive as Aquaculture Does
    • New Product Positioning
      • Table Selected New Fish and Seafood Products: Fresh/Refrigerated, 2011-2012
      • Table Selected New Fish and Seafood Products: Frozen, 2011-2012
      • Table Selected New Fish and Seafood Products: Shelf Stable, 2011-2012
      • Table Selected New Fish and Seafood Products: Foodservice, 2011-2012
  • Retail/Foodservice Trends
    • Key Points
    • Similar Challenges and Solutions for Retail and Foodservice
      • Convergence of Customers
        • Table Use of Seafood Restaurants and Retail Purchase of Fish/Seafood Products, 2012 (Index of U.S. households visiting selected restaurants)
    • Retail Trends
      • Seafood a Positive Department for Retailers
        • Table Importance of Fresh Meat/Seafood in Choosing a Grocery Store, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
        • Table Importance of Convenience in Fresh Fish/Seafood Purchases, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
        • Table Confidence Regarding Preparation of Fresh Fish/Seafood, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
      • Rising Prices Are Key Retail Issue
        • Table Expense as a Deterrent to Purchasing of Fresh Fish/Seafood, June 2013 (percent of consumers)
        • Table Average Weekly Grocery Expenditures for Fish and Seafood, by Type, 2012 (index of U.S. households using fish/seafood)
      • Value-Added and Meal Solutions Adding to Sales
      • Pitching Sustainability
      • Many Retailers Rejecting Genetically Modified Seafoods
      • Private Label Lines Including Seafood
        • Table Average Weekly Grocery Expenditures, by Use of Private Label Fish/Seafood, 2012 (index of U.S. households using fish/seafood)
      • Seasonal Marketing Picks Up for Fish and Seafood
      • Independent Fish Stores Soldier On
    • Foodservice Trends
      • Strong Sales in 2012 for Seafood Chains
        • Table Household Use of Selected Seafood Restaurants: 2008, 2010, and 2012 (percent of U.S. households)
        • Table Selected Demographic Indicators for Use of Red Lobster Restaurant, 2012 (index of U.S. households)
        • Table Selected Demographic Indicators for Use of Joe's Crab Shack Restaurant, 2012 (index of U.S. households)
        • Table Selected Demographic Indicators for Use of Long John Silver's Restaurant, 2012 (index of U.S. households)
      • Seafood Should Promote More Gains in 2013
      • New Seafood Chains Emerge as Older Chains Regain Footing
      • Seafood Turning Up in Wider Variety of Foodservice Venues
      • New Products Buoy Market
        • Table Recent New Product Finalists in the International Boston Seafood Show's Seafood Excellence Awards, 2011-2013
      • Sustainability in Foodservice
      • Finding the Price/Value Balance Point
  • Consumer Trends
    • Key Points
    • Note on Simmons Consumer Data
    • Consumer Health Concerns Regarding Seafood
    • Health Benefits of Fish
      • Pescetarians
      • Fresh Fish Consumers Show Higher Health Concerns
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Fresh Fish/Seafood, 2012 (index of U.S. Consumers)
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Frozen Fish/Seafood, 2012 (index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Health Concerns Not Uniform for All Seafood Products
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Frozen Prepared Seafood, by Kinds Used Most Often, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Frozen Prepared Seafood, by Kinds Also Used, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Tuna (Can or Pouch), 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Tuna (Can or Pouch), 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Tuna (Can or Pouch), 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
        • Table Health Attitudes of Consumers Using Tuna (Can or Pouch), 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Fresh Fish and Seafood Consumers Show "Foodie" Tendencies
        • Table Food Attitudes/Opinions of Consumers Using Fish and Seafood, by Product Category, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
    • Most Seafood Consumer Segments in Normal Range
    • Regional Preferences Stand Out
      • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Fish/Seafood, by Product Category and Nielsen Region, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
    • Consumer Product Preferences - Fresh Fish and Seafood
      • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Fresh Fish/Seafood, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Price A Major Concern in Fresh Fish Category
        • Table Retail Price Per Pound of Different Types of Meat, Poultry and Fish/Seafood, June, 2013
    • Consumer Product Preferences - Frozen Fish and Seafood
      • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Frozen Fish/Seafood, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
    • Consumer Product Preferences - Frozen Prepared Fish and Seafood
      • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Frozen Prepared Seafood, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Frozen Prepared - Breaded Clams
        • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Frozen Prepared Seafood, Breaded Clams, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Frozen Prepared - Fish Cakes
        • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Frozen Prepared Seafood, Fish Cakes, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Frozen Prepared - Fish Fillets
        • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Frozen Prepared Seafood, Fish Fillets, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Frozen Prepared - Fish Sticks
        • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Frozen Prepared Seafood, Fish Sticks, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
      • Frozen Prepared - Shrimp
        • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Frozen Prepared Seafood, Shrimp, 2012 (Index of U.S. Consumers)
    • Consumer Product Preferences - Shelf-Stable Tuna
      • Shelf-Stable Tuna - Canned vs. Pouched
        • Table User Demographics Focus: Consumers of Shelf-Stable Tuna, by Form Eaten Most Often, 2012 (index of U.S. consumers)
  • Appendix
    • Selected Companies/Brands
    • Selected Retailers
    • Selected Private Label/Foodservice Suppliers
    • Selected Fish/Seafood Restaurant Chains

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