THE FUTURE OF SEAFOOD IS OMNI-CHANNEL, EXPERT CLAIMS

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Seafood companies who invested heavily in e-commerce during the global pandemic will continue to reap the benefits as innovations such as online deliveries and apps are here to stay, according to the UK’s non-departmental public body Seafish.

Speaking to SIAL Newsroom Richard Watson, Market Insights Analyst at Seafish said: “Technology was becoming increasingly more important to the industry prior to the pandemic, which has only accelerated it further.

“It has allowed outlets to complete automation, new ways to communicate with customers during closures, offering promotion and deals, allowing contactless ordering and payment, and minimal human interaction making social distancing possible.

“In particular food delivery and ordering apps will continue to play an enormous role in the restoration of the foodservice industry, even beyond the pandemic.”

According to Seafish Websites will see a shift towards mobile optimised versions, with apps now responsible for 39% of delivery visits, a total increase of 14% year-on-year.

Covid-19 guidelines to ‘stay home’ and social distancing have dramatically impacted consumer behaviour since the beginning of the global pandemic in March 2020.

Shoppers, who normally visited their supermarket fish counters on a daily or weekly basis, suddenly migrated online in search of food delivered to their doorstep.

So high was demand, many delivery companies like Ocado and Amazon Fresh were forced to introduce online queuing systems to cope with orders.

Looking at the numbers, 85% of seafood sales pre-Covid were through bricks and mortar shops compared to just 7% online, according to Kantar Group.

Now, while seafood sales figures during the pandemic are not yet available, total grocery online shopping stands between 12 and 14%.

Online sales for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), which includes packaged foods, have increased by 9.5 % since 2019.

Europe’s biggest frozen food company, Nomad Foods, saw a jump in online sales during the pandemic from 12 to 25%.

The ‘online consumer migration’ coupled with uncertainty surrounding a return to normal also sparked a wave of innovation in 2020 across the food industry.

Seafood companies, like others, experimented with delivery, drive through, takeaway and click and collect, click and serve, subscriptions and boxes, ghost kitchens, meal kits and technology.

But with optimism surrounding vaccination programmes, countries around the world have started relaxing restrictions and many companies are asking themselves what will happen next?

The upwards trend of online sales is expected to continue post-pandemic, according to world leading measurement and analytics firm NielsenIQ.

Likewise, deliveries and technology will continue to be key opportunities for seafood companies and a main route to trade.

Despite the success of e-commerce during the pandemic, seafood companies should not give up on stores yet, Seafish said.

While growing from a small base, online remains a minor channel for seafood companies, with other channels like superstores and discounters still making up the bulk of sales.

Also, online shopping was stalling before the pandemic forced people home, which suggests growth will slow as restrictions relax and consumers flock back to the shops.

Overall, however, e-commerce will continue to grow even as restrictions lift, with four in ten households expected to regularly buy online.

This is good news for seafood companies who invested in e-commerce during the pandemic, but also for those who sell through main estate.

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