A stream of health messages, industry marketing and new product developments such as those emphasising omega-3 content, has put fish back on the dinner plate. While most categories have been performing well within convenience stores, some - notably fish ready meals, fingers and fish in sauce - are out-performing the total retail market.
At the same time, frozen natural fish (fillets, steaks and portions) is up 12% in value year-on-year, according to Young's Seafoods. Helen Taylor, the company's marketing communications controller, says: "A lot of work has been done to get the message across to consumers that frozen products are as healthy as fresh."
Birds Eye says 87% of households bought frozen foods in January making, on average, 3.7 trips in a four-week period. These levels are the highest in three years. Birds Eye convenience customer insights manager David Kilby says: "Shoppers are coming back to the category and are buying more often. This represents a great opportunity for convenience store retailers."
Birds Eye's focus is on sustainability. According to Kilby: "This is a key issue for the industry and consumers. We're working closely with the Marine Stewardship Council to make sure we use only sustainable fish sources." The company has recently launched its Seaside Specials and Seaside Shapes ranges, made from Alaskan pollock. It is also placing emphasis on omega-3, with two new fish-in-sauce lines and, following the success of its 12-pack omega-3 fish fingers last year, has added a 36-pack retailing at £4.99.
The British Frozen Food Federation is highlighting the benefits of frozen food over chilled. The message includes emphasis on the speed at which the fish is frozen - often within four hours of being caught - ensuring the product is at the peak of its quality.
Hugh Taylor, Young's Seafoods category development controller, says: "Frozen fish is proving attractive compared with chilled. This gives convenience store retailers a big opportunity. They can develop their own niche by offering small 99p price-marked packs of kippers at 200g, or our Richly Smoked Haddock at £1.79 for 170g."
But the impulse purchase should not be overlooked. Scampi benefits from such sales and, according to Taylor: "Sales are up 15% year on year through independents. Scampi is not a product for the shopping list, but if it's on offer, people will frequently buy."
Top fish brands
Birds Eye Captain's Table
Young's Chip Shop Battered Fish
Birds Eye Simply Fish Frozen Fillet
Young's Frozen Meals
Young's Golden Seafood
Young's Frozen Fillets
Young's Chip Shop Jumbo Specials Battered Fish
Source: TNS Worldpanel, 52 w/e April 2008