Reel in the latest seafood insights

There’s a new seafood diet in town -- and no, we’re not talking about the “see food and eat it” diet. Seafood, which includes all types of fish (salmon, herring, perch) and shellfish (such as shrimp, mollusks, and sea urchins), is steadily expanding into consumer lifestyles. At a time when many consumers are trying to reduce their red meat intake (39% according to a Datassential survey), nearly two-thirds are eating fish regularly, while a third expect to increase seafood consumption in the coming year. In our latest MenuTrends Keynote Report: Seafood, Datassential explored everything under the sea, diving deep into today’s seafood landscape to uncover the latest trends. Here’s a bit of bait as we hook you with a sneak peek into the extensive report.

Consumers are hooked on seafood

Seafood is found on a wide variety of menus (fish is menued at four out of five restaurants, for example) – and for good reason, as consumers show a demonstrated affinity toward fish and shellfish. Of those who eat it, about 9 in 10 consumers say they choose seafood because it tastes great and is healthy. With many types of seafood praised for being low calorie, often high in protein and rich in healthy fats, both operators and manufacturers could benefit from calling out the associated health benefits. In fact, our report found that operators said positioning seafood as a healthy and better-for-you option was the single most effective way to promote seafood products. In addition to its availability at restaurants, consumers are also choosing to eat seafood at home (two-thirds of consumers’ last seafood occasion was at home, most often made from raw ingredients such as fish filets). The versatility of seafood (ranging from convenient handhelds like fish tacos to fine dining entrees like surf n’ turf) resonates with consumers, who say they are equally amicable to eating seafood across occasions, from grabbing a quick bite to celebrating special events.

Poke, sushi burritos and more fresh-caught opportunities

When it comes to seafood, there’s a whole sea of opportunities for operators and manufacturers. Currently shrimp, salmon and tuna are at the top of the class, as they’re most menued, most consumed and most loved of seafood varieties, but consumers are also voicing the desire for a larger variety of options in stores and on menus. Showcasing trendy seafood varieties, like bluefin tuna, octopus or branzino (some of the fastest-growing seafood items on menus), could help quench consumer thirst for lesser-known under-the-sea ingredients.

A growing number of restaurant concepts are also focusing on trendy seafood dishes -- poke, the Hawaiian salad of raw fish/seafood combined with any number of ingredients, has grown 90% on menus over the past four years (Datassential MenuTrends) and is at the core of an ever-increasing number of build-your-own poke bowl concepts (Chicago-born Aloha Poke recently announced its plans to expand to half a dozen new markets outside of the Windy City). A variety of chains are also adopting the poke trend in items like Ahi Poke Tacos at Houston-based Landry’s Seafood House or a Royal Hawaiian Ahi Poke Salad at RAM Restaurant and Brewery (not to mention retail chains where consumers will find packaged poke bowls at grocers like HEB Grocery or custom poke bowls at select Whole Foods locations). New takes on classic seafood items like sushi burritos that mash up raw fish and leverage the convenience of a classic handheld are also grabbing consumers’ attention, as 42% say they’re familiar with the concept and a fifth say they love sushi burritos. Seafood is additionally appearing in innovative, non-traditional forms of well-known favorites -- PB Catch in Palm Beach, Fla., is known for its fishy take on charcuterie with “seacuterie,” while alternative seafood jerky (such as salmon) is making inroads as consumers look for a spin on traditional beef jerky.

And while (like other proteins such as beef or chicken) seafood growth on menus has remained relatively flat, certain dayparts may present a strong opportunity for seafood innovation (shellfish has grown 40% on breakfast menus since 2007, while nearly 90% consumers say they reach for seafood items like popcorn shrimp for a snack).

Renee Lee is the senior publications specialist at Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis, and concept testing for the food industry. To purchase the MenuTrends Keynote Report: Seafood mentioned in this article, contact Datassential managing director Brian Darr at brian.darr@datassential.com.

______________________________________

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief's email list for more stories about the food and beverage industry. We offer 20 newsletters covering the industry from restaurants to food manufacturing. And be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest industry news.