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IBSS 2013: The Future of Supermarket Seafood

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Seafood will account for 5% of store sales in 2020, according to bold predictions by retailers and industry experts at “Retail Forum: Retail Seafood 2020. What Supermarket Seafood Departments Will Look Like by the Start of the Next Decade.”

In order to get there, seafood departments must make changes to improve the customer experience by ensuring counters are well-stocked and well-staffed and providing a consistent product.

There are some customers today who are confident when purchasing seafood, said Jeff Josselyn, senior director of meat and seafood procurement, Ahold USA. “And then we have another whole group of consumers ... that go by the case, that it's as if there's a wall there.”

The first step is making sure seafood staff receive sufficient training and know how to engage the customer.

Phil Gibson, former director of seafood at Safeway and now a consultant at Encore Associates, said that on a recent trip to the supermarket he wasn't able to get any service at the seafood counter, let alone talk to an informed associate.

“I stood in front of the case for 15 minutes. Nothing. Nobody came,” said Gibson. 

Stores should also be providing more value-added options for seafood for the customers who are unsure how to prepare fish.

“We have an era today where we are almost at the second generation of folks who don't really know how to cook,” said Josselyn.

“Solutions need to be simple. They need to be cost effective. They need to taste good every single time. Every single time,” he added.

Seafood should take a cue from poultry when it comes to providing a consistent consumer experience.

“The package of poultry that a consumer purchases every single week is almost identical,” said Josselyn. “We need that trust in the seafood department.”

Phil Walsh, director of business development, Alfa Gamma Seafood Group, agreed. “If I buy poultry 20 times in a row I have 20 positive experiences,” but that is not always the case with seafood.

The panelists recognized that 5% sales is a lofty goal.

“It's a very aggressive number,” said Josselyn. However, “I think we can get there."

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