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The five "must haves" in the seafood department: merchandised and managed properly, the seafood department can be a big money maker for retailers.

WITH GLOBAL CONSUMER AWARENESS AND CONCERN for the safety and authenticity of the foods consumers eat at an all-time high, grocery retailers continue to be at the frontlines of helping shoppers make confident choices for their families.

Seafood as a category inspires some of the strongest concerns for discerning consumers. When I go into my local grocery retail store to purchase seafood, for example, top of mind is the freshness of the products behind the glass. When was it caught? How and when was it shipped to the store?

The seafood industry itself mirrors these types of consumer concerns as mislabeling of seafood products has recently been getting a lot attention from the U.S. government and the media. In fact, the Obama administration unveiled significant new measures at this year's Seafood Expo North America to prevent rampant mislabeling of seafood and black-market fishing. These illegal practices are seen as both misleading to consumers and damaging to the global fishing industry. The 40-page report aims to track fish and crustaceans from dock to dish--from where they are caught to where they are sent.

Here are the top five recommendations I offer grocery retailers interested in leveraging their expertise and connection to consumers by ramping up best practices in the seafood case.

Educate associates

Associate training is the most important investment a retailer can make in order to build a successful seafood department. Retailers may look at the high cost of training employees and have a hard time justifying the expense in their already tight budgets. However, if your seafood associates cannot answer consumer questions about the story behind the seafood they are selling, including where it came from, how it was harvested and the best way to prepare it, you will most assuredly lose consumer confidence.

If seafood associates are offered ongoing training programs, they can become consumer advocates and "go-to" resources for flavor profile information, the history behind the selection, how it was caught and brought to the store and cooking/preparation tips that will make consumers come back for more.

Offer a strong private brand

There are many packer label brands in the frozen seafood case and sometimes this can be pretty overwhelming to consumers. Consumers want to try new items but they can be hard to find, and it can be equally difficult to discern the benefits of one packer label over another. When you offer a complete line of private brand seafood offerings, you eliminate the guesswork and inspire consumers to try new things based on the trust they have for your brand.

Promote sustainability

Most retailers have a sustainability program but many do not properly communicate this information back to consumers.

Consumers are more educated now about best practices then they have ever been before. They want to know the details about the products they are purchasing. Make sure you have signs displayed throughout your seafood department clearly communicating each product offering, and more importantly, ensure that all of your seafood team associates are well versed in all aspects of your sustainability program so they can be proactive advocates.

Value-added programs

With all of the places consumers can shop and eat, it is important to provide value-added programs that both lure shoppers into the seafood department but also provide "can't get anywhere else" offerings and encourage at-home preparation. By offering a good value added program, seafood will grow your overall department sales and keep your customers coming back for more.

Fresh and frozen program

Finfish represents more than 40% of total seafood department sales and with consumers actively seeking healthier, more affordable options finfish fits the bill. Tilapia is the number one selling fillet in the U.S. with swai fillet quickly moving into the top five. Walmart is one of the biggest reasons for the success of these two items. In just about every one of its stores nationwide, Walmart dedicates a frozen endcap display with frozen bags of tilapia and swai. The frequency of communication about these two varieties keeps them top of mind and sales strong.

Brian Diffenderfer is director of meat & seafood, Daymon Worldwide. He can be contacted at
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Title Annotation:Viewpoints: FOOD FORUM
Author:Diffenderfer, Brian
Publication:Grocery Headquarters
Date:Apr 1, 2015
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