Seawatch: Shellfish purchases drop while finfish is up

Demand for healthy seafood goes up, but supply-chain issues impact sales.

In a good news-bad news story, more Americans are learning how to buy and cook healthy seafood. The trend is expected to continue, but global supply chains are a hot mess, which actually led to a slight decrease in global consumption in spite of national trends.

The online seafood magazine Seafood Source reported that 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink said that stores are dealing with shortages across departments, and that shellfish in partcular has had the biggest roller coaster ride so far due to supply chain issues. The number of shellfish species in stores nation-wide fell 9.1% over the last year, leading to an 8.5 % drop in sales.

However, fresh finfish sales have risen a substantial 4.3 % and is maintaining a steady assortment of species.

That is confirmed by a report from Research and Markets, an online publication that bills themselves as “the world’s largest research store,” which reports that live, fresh and chilled seafood has catapulted the category into the dominant position.

This is a trend they expect to continue into 2027.

That may only be possible if the supply chain problems ease, but it also opened the door for more niche markets.

In a November article, National Fisherman noted that the pandemic flipped the seafood industry on its head with widespread and long-term shutdowns of restaurants and large food service venues.

Although those sectors are not yet running at full capacity, they are far more robust than they were a year ago.

During a panel discussion that kicked off the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s annual “All Hands on Deck” conference that month, Guy Pizzuti, Seafood director for Publix Super Markets, said “the supply chain challenges are starting to hit us more now than they ever have before.”

The discussion among representatives of the food service and retail industry’s seafood segments hit on the low points as well as what’s been working and what the future of seafood sales could be as new consumers flooded the retail space with new demands.

Greg Jeffers, director of purchasing for Gorton’s, noted that the company saw a significant increase in sales as a result of pantry loading and freezer loading in 2020.

For this year, the goal shifted from simply trying to keep up with the demand of new consumers to “keeping them in the category for a long time,” Jeffers said.

Those goals line up well with “dock to table” subscription services in which consumers can sign up to have a box of fresh/frozen seafood delivered monthly, giving them a variety of products to try, something that has taken off in Alaska in the past few years, with companies such as Wild Alaska Company, Sitka Salmon Shares and Alaska Home Pack to thrive.

Cristy Fry can be reached at

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