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Oil Spill Still Sinking Seafood Sales

Oil Spill Still Sinking Seafood Sales

Even though scarcely two percent of fish and seafood that shows up on American’s plates was caught in the Gulf of Mexico, last year’s horrific oil spill continues to depress seafood consumption.

According to a new study by Technomic, 23 percent of consumers say their consumption of seafood at restaurants fell during the time of the oil spill, which is probably not surprising. But even four months later, 19 percent claimed they were still ordering fish less often.

“The spill and those indelible images from the gulf have led to some behavioral changes, says Mary Chapman, a director at Technomic. “While these changes may not be permanent, they have lasted beyond the media’s coverage of the spill and are a testament to the strength of that imagery.”

Technomic’s new “Market Intelligence Report: Seafood” shares insights into seafood menu growth opportunities and consumer preferences. Among other findings of interest:

• The seafood category as a whole lost sales and units last year, as operators faced increased competition from varied menu casual dining leaders, fast food giants and niche players featuring sushi, fish tacos or better-for-you choices.

• Consumers perceive fish and seafood to be inherently healthy, but many still opt for unhealthy preparations when dining out.

• Restaurants appear to be positioning seafood on opposite sides of the spectrum: both as a comfort food and as a platform to launch unique and innovative flavors or ethnic influences, especially with appetizers.

• Sustainability continues to be a popular theme, with many restaurant chains choosing sustainable species and educating customers about those choices.

Technomic’s Market Intelligence Report includes data from the firms’ MenuMonitor online trend-tracking resource, which analyzes the menus of more than 1,200 top chains, emerging concepts and leading independent restaurants. For more information, visit