Fish/shellfish guaranteed to be sourced from unpolluted waters appeal to 74% of people who eat and buy the category, providing stark evidence of the reach of the media coverage around ocean plastic in recent years.

The lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19 helped boost the sales of frozen and ambient as people sought out long-life products. Fish/shellfish’s relatively high price means cutbacks are on the cards as incomes come under pressure during the recession triggered by the outbreak. Trading down within the category is also anticipated, including from chilled to frozen or tinned products. Heightened health and environmental concerns are, however, expected see people reduce their meat intake, creating opportunities for fish/shellfish.

A third of buyers would buy less fish/shellfish if they had less money to spend on groceries, underlining the potential for the coming recession to have a significant impact on volume sales. Meanwhile 38% of buyers would wait to buy on promotion, dialling up the pressure on margins. Consumer openness to alternative species to familiar favourites could offer a means for operators to meet the demand for accessible prices.

A renewed focus on health among consumers has emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fish/shellfish category is in a good position to benefit from this, but has yet to realise its full potential. For example, flagging up certain species’ status as a source of selenium and zinc and the related immune health claims would be timely, such claims appearing on just 1% of category launches in 2019.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the fish and shellfish market

  • The buying factors that would win over shoppers to new products

  • How shoppers expect to change their buying behaviours as incomes are squeezed

  • Key new product trends and opportunities in 2020.

COVID-19: Market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January, with a small number of cases in February. The government focused on the ‘contain’ stage of its strategy, with the country continuing to operate much as normal. As the case level rose, the government ordered the closure of non-essential stores on 20th March.

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23rd March. Initially, a three-week timeframe was put on the measures, which was extended in mid-April for another three weeks.

The Health Protections Regulations 2020 came into effect on 15th June allowing the reopening of all non-essential stores in England as well as the mandatory use of face coverings on public transport. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers were able to reopen on 4th July, with many beauty businesses following on 13th July. From 24 July, it became mandatory to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its July 2020 Fiscal Sustainability Report. The scenario suggests that UK GDP could fall by 12.4% in 2020, recovering by 8.7% in 2021, and that unemployment will reach 11.9% by the end of 2020, falling to 8.8% by the end of 2021.

The current uncertainty means that there is wide variation on the range of forecasts, however, and this is reflected in the OBR’s own scenarios. In its upside scenario, economic activity returns to pre-COVID-19 levels by Q1 2021. Its more negative scenario, by contrast, would mean that GDP doesn’t recover until Q3 2024.

Products covered in this Report

This Report discusses the retail sales of seafood for in-home consumption. Seafood is defined for the purposes of this Report to include fish (fin fish) and shellfish (including crustaceans), whether chilled, frozen or ambient. This Report includes plain, as well as processed and ready-to-cook products.

The word ‘ambient’ is used to refer to the segment traditionally dominated by canned fish, which now also includes ambient fish in tubs, pouches and jars.

Excluded from this Report are seafood-based ready meals and sales of seafood through the catering sector, eg fish and chip shops. Sales of sushi are also excluded.

The market size in this Report differs from the Mintel Market Sizes market size for the category because the Mintel Market Sizes figure includes sales of ready meals and meal centres, which this Report does not include. It also differs from the Mintel Market Sizes market size for the category because the Mintel Market Sizes figure excludes sales of chilled plain whole, filleted or portioned fish, which this Report includes.

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