Making Seafood More Accessible

Making Seafood More Accessible

July 23, 2023
Sally Smithwick

By Sally Smithwick, RDBA Contributing Editor

In a historic move this year, the USDA came to the rescue of the fishing industry by investing over $119 million in the purchase of Alaskan sockeye salmon and Pacific groundfish. In September 2022, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute requested that the agency assist in addressing an unusually high inventory. The USDA purchased the surplus with the intention of distributing the seafood to food banks and non-profits helping those facing food insecurity. And while this is a big win for the fishing industry, it’s also an indicator that many Americans will now experience more access to seafood, quite possibly giving seafood consumption a boost overall and heightening interest in this nutritious and sustainable protein.

Seafood consumption is important when it comes to getting those omega-3 fatty acids that adults ideally need for heart and brain health. Additionally, it can be highly beneficial for pregnant women and cognitive development in children. But studies have shown that nearly 90% of Americans do not get enough of these essential nutrients. In fact, the 2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans called for adults to increase their consumption of seafood with the goal of eating fish twice a week.

In addition to the health benefits of seafood, as we see more shoppers move away from meat that comes from land animals, seafood is a great option for the shopper interested in a “clean eating” diet or one that provides sustainable and environmentally efficient protein choices.

With all these positive reasons for eating seafood, why aren’t Americans eating more?

A 2022 study from John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future suggests that cost is a significant barrier. Researchers found that people with low incomes ate 18 percent less than people with higher incomes.

Another reason your shoppers may not be buying seafood is that they find the preparation daunting. An FMI survey showed that only 28 percent feel confident in how to cook, prepare or flavor seafood. And while frozen seafood is much more affordable, it’s possible that shoppers feel even more challenged in how to prepare seafood straight from the freezer.

Leading sustainable seafood expert, educator and chef, Barton Seaver, recently presented to our audience at the 2023 Retail Dietitians Virtual Experience and walked us through an eye-opening cook-along that made no-thaw frozen seafood cooking a breeze! In fact, before presenting the main dish with the audience, he demonstrated how you can sprinkle a little salt on frozen sockeye salmon and pop it in your toaster oven for a 20 minute slow roast while maintaining optimum flavor. Preparation can be that easy, but many shoppers just haven’t been given enough guidance on how simple seafood preparation can be.

According to Statista, the Fish & Seafood market in the US is expected to grow annually by 4.12% (CAGR) from 2023 to 2028. Looking ahead, retailers will be focusing on new ways to position and promote seafood, and retail dietitians are poised to guide shoppers on creative, affordable, convenient and nutritious ways to add seafood into their diets.

For more inspiration, watch this video where Barton Seaver dispels the myths of frozen seafood.