Should you do something? Educating your seafood partners


  • 38% of seafood shoppers said that a mainstream grocery store is different from a seafood store.
  • The proportion of seafood shoppers identifying a traditional grocery store as their primary seafood retailer fell to 35% in 2022, from 37% in 2021, from 42% in 2020 and to 51% in 2019.
  • According to the IMF, food retail workers have an average cost of $534

Trained associates who can answer shoppers’ questions and enthusiastically promote products are one of the most valuable resources you can have in your seafood department.

However, maintaining a workforce of articulate and effective employees is not easy. Not only do retailers face a significant investment in time and money to properly train employees, but operators also have the burden of retaining top talent in an industry where high turnover is becoming the norm.

21% of shoppers indicate that knowledgeable counter staff influence their decision on where to buy seafood, meaning the associate experience is a vital consumer magnet.

About 50% of seafood shoppers said they visit a seafood counter to make a purchase, and 75% of shoppers — along with 82% of frequent customers — indicated that seafood shops are “very” or “somewhat” important. be workers at the counters, reports FMI-The Food Industry Association

“This tells us that a seafood counter can and does play a role for the seafood consumer, either through the services provided directly or through a better perception of the retailer’s seafood,” said Rick Stein, FMI’s vice president of fresh foods.

Stein, who spent more than 30 years at Safeway, where he was ultimately vice president of retail merchandising and marketing execution, said managers’ ability to influence and educate consumers is the most important aspect of a successful operation.

“We’d take a very talented seafood department manager and move them to an underperforming store, and within six months the department would turn around,” he said. “The problem is finding outgoing and talented managers.”

These managers are needed to serve the broad base of buyers who have said they rely on partners for product information. This includes:

  • 88% of buyers who want to know the geographical origin of seafood
  • 88% want to determine if the seafood is farm-raised or wild
  • 88% looking for sustainability details
  • And 82% who want recipe information

The seafood department, however, can be the most difficult area for supermarket workers to master because of the wide range of products, Stein said.

“A seafood member needs to know the different species, the aspects of sustainability, the details of health and wellness, and the details of cooking and preparation,” he said.

An exceptional partner, he adds, “goes the extra mile for the customer with cohesive meal planning needs with food pairings, food safety guidance, recipes, nutritional information and more.”

Videos that members can access through their smartphones and provide details on different spices and recipes while in the store can be effective training tools, Stein said.

It’s also essential for seafood department operators to make employees feel valued, assuring them that they are a valuable resource to shoppers, he said. For example, members can hold in-store cooking demonstrations, engage in question-and-answer sessions with shoppers, and highlight signage, online videos and tutorials.

“The key is recognition,” Stein said. “Recognizing talent and rewarding it with praise and praise is a very effective strategy.”

Making shellfish experts is a major endeavor because of the complexity of shellfish, which requires knowledge of the unique characteristics of many species, Stein said.

While ongoing employee education is essential, it can also be expensive. FMI said it costs an average of $534 to train each grocery retail worker.

However, 92 percent of food retailers operate in-house training and development programs, and approximately 63 percent also purchase programs from third-party vendors, FMI said.

Retailers, on the other hand, must identify or develop qualified replacements when promoting talent from outside the department, Stein added.

Leveraging such partners is key, as many consumers will switch stores for the best shopping experience. FMI reports that 38% of seafood shoppers said that a mainstream grocery store is different from a seafood store.

The share of seafood shoppers identifying a traditional grocery store as their primary seafood retailer fell to 35% in 2022, from 37% in 2021, 42% in 2020 and 51% in 2019, the IMF said.

In addition, 25% of consumers indicated that supermarkets or discount stores are their primary source of seafood shopping, 12% named club stores, and 28% said they use a mix of other types of stores, including seafood specialty, limited range, natural . , ethnic and online retailers.

35 percent of shoppers cite good/respectful service and 13 percent seafood advice as a factor in selecting a seafood store first.

“A seafood counter can play a role for the seafood consumer either through services provided directly or by improving the retailer’s perception of seafood,” FMI said.