Seafish Report Record Fish Sales Since Lockdown

At the start of the hospitality lockdown one of the key chef ingredients went under the radar: fish. What happened has probably changed the industry at least in the short term and for an number of reasons there has never been a better time to eat or cook with fish.

Almost overnight, according to a new report by Seafish, export markets to countries such as China, Italy, Spain and France collapsed. At the same time retail sales soared as the UK began life in lockdown. These have subsequently levelled off to an increased level compared with the same time in 2019. This boom in retail has benefitted supermarkets but also high street fishmongers.

Suddenly, for the first time in years, fishmongers were able to get hold of native fish that were traditionally exported. With markets in Spain closed down fish such as hake, plaice and bass were all in plentiful supply – along with all the other native UK fish such as cod and haddock. Shellfish, especially crab and lobster were also in good supply.

SeafishWhen the hospitality lockdown kicked in businesses along the UK seafood supply chain lost access to their usual markets and new small-scale markets emerged to sell direct. Coastal fish markets adapted and many suppliers set up new routes to sell direct into homes.

It is this trend that should excite chefs. Learning from retail is a new way of considering menus and new dishes. More of the general public are buying fish and, more than likely, will welcome it on menus – especially as it is native and sustainable.

John Watson, owner of traditional fishmongers CFayre in Largs told Seafish:

Seafish“We’re selling more fish now than before the pandemic. We’re not sure whether that’s because customers have discovered us, moved away from supermarkets for their fish or are simply appreciating the quality of Scottish fish, but it’s been very positive.”

One of the areas most seriously hit was fish processing and with less fish being taken out of the food chain there was more to go around. This helped to spread the quality of fish hitting the market. However, the frozen and fresh retail market has also seen a boom.

Scott Johnston, Technical & CSR Director at Young’s Seafood said:

“At Young’s, we saw an uplift across our retail business which began in the lead up to lockdown. This started with strong chilled sales and was followed by an uplift in frozen sales as shoppers switched to bigger, less frequent shops and filled up their freezers with 142m fewer shopping trips taken in between March and April.”