Traditionally many consumers in APAC have preferred to buy fish from specialised supermarket seafood counters, where it was perceived to be fresher and could be cleaned on the spot.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased awareness of food safety, both in terms of bacterial transmission via touch as well as shelf-life concerns given the major supply chain challenges at the time.
These factors have collectively contributed to the growth of a different category - prepackaged seafood.
“In Australia for example, before the pandemic we were seeing 60% of seafood being bought from across the counters in supermarkets and the other 40% went to prepackaged products – but today, these percentages have been swapped around, and 60% of purchased seafood is in the prepackaged format,” Tassal Head of Sales and Marketing Matt Vince told FoodNavigator-Asia at the recent Seafood Expo Asia 2023 in Singapore.
“One of our best-selling products is smoked salmon, which fits nicely into this category and we have certainly seen an uptick for this.
“We believe that this change has come about because of firstly the food safety factor, where consumers are more reluctant than they were before to have strangers handling their food with their hands.
“The other factor that has played strongly into this is convenience – this is a trend that grew significantly during the pandemic as well and has continued to be significant not just in Australia but the APAC region and globally.”
Tassal is one of Australia’s largest seafood companies, holding the largest brand share of the local smoked salmon market in the country. The firm won the Seafood Excellence Asia Award at the expo this year for its Tassie Smoked Salmon Twin Pack.
“The twin pack is a great example of how pre-packaged seafood is growing – as compared to our conventional larger packs of 500g or 1kg where consumers generally don’t consume it all at once then have to worry about the semi-raw products’ shelf-lives, based on our research showing that people tend to eat about 100g at a time, these smaller packs allow for convenient carrying around and immediate consumption,” he added.
“We also have resealable larger packs for sharing or entertaining, which also allow for better storage, all in the name of convenience.”
The Tassie Smoked Salmon Twin Pack is already in retail supermarkets in Australia, and has no other flavourings added after being smoked over beechwood to maximise versatility of consumption.
More seafood going pre-packaged
Smoked salmon is already well-recognised as a pre-packaged product, but many other seafood items are not as readily available in this format.
Tassal is moving to launch more pre-packaged seafood products such as prawns and barramundi in this format and believes there are many more items out there that are likely to make this shift as well.
“We were one of the first to make the prepackaged shift for prawns, as we really see that being a big part of the seafood industry moving forward,” he said.
“There are other seafood items [that we are not specialised in] such as oysters and mussels that are not there yet, but we believe that they are likely to make this shift too given the way trends are moving in the industry.”