Farmed is wild’s top competition but ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’
Prices for farmed salmon have been on the increase since January. That’s good news for Alaska wild salmon because as the saying goes: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
Fresh farmed salmon dominates U.S. supermarket shelves during the fall and spring until Alaska’s wild salmon season gets underway in early summer. Alaska provides 95% of wild salmon to America’s markets and restaurants.
The trend with the farmed salmon uptick is contrary to trends with most other seafood products that set pandemic-fueled sales records coming into this year but have plummeted since. The seafood turn-around is blamed on a global bout with inflation, rising costs of goods and services, high gas prices and unsold fish in the freezers.
In a market analysis titled “Salmon prices prove unsinkable in US as other sectors crater,” Undercurrent News (UCN) cited Chris DuBois, a senior vice president at IRI, saying that “salmon is the star of the fresh seafood aisle. IRI is a major Chicago-based grocery sales analysis service.
“Salmon helped prevent the whole seafood category from sinking,” DuBois added.
“Salmon’s really kind of anchoring everything,” he told UCN. “And not just because it’s 2+ billion dollars, but because retailers are trying to market it. They want to keep their customers. And everything that we’ve seen from a consumer side says people will be cooking at home much more than they have in the past.”
Fresh salmon and seafood salads were the only seafood segments that managed to increase sales growth since May 2021, according to IRI.
Fresh salmon sales accounted for $2.5 billion worth of the $6.8 billion in aisle-fresh seafood sales recorded in the US by IRI during the 52-week period that ended May 15.
That was a 7.4% increase over the previous 52-weeks. Fresh salmon’s average price per unit was $10.10, an increase of 12.3%.
Undercurrent said by comparison, sales for the entire fresh seafood category during that time period were down 6.2%, although the overall average price of $9.07 per unit was up 10.5%.
In terms of wholesale salmon prices, citing data from Urner-Barry’s biweekly price sheets, Undercurrent reported that on June 14, a 2-3 pound fresh Atlantic salmon D-trim fillet from Norway was selling in the US at $9.38/lb on average, a 28% increase since January ($7.30/lb). And that price is 71% above the $5.50/lb paid in January 2021.
Chile is the largest provider of farmed salmon to the US. That same size fillet also was fetching higher prices since the start of the year, but it was on a downward slide, UCN said.
Chilean salmon fillets were wholesaling for $6.20/lb on average in mid-June, a 4% increase since January and 20% more than the $5.18 average in January 2021.
Urner-Barry told Undercurrent last week that the market for that particular Chilean product in the US was “weak and pricing adjusted lower again.”
(Perhaps the growing disinterest is due to the huge increases of antibiotics that Chile has been using at its fish farms?? That prompted Costco to drastically reduce its purchases of farmed Chilean salmon a few years ago.)
Wild salmon prices holding steady as AK season ramps up
For wild caught salmon, frozen sockeye prices were holding steady against all the farmed fresh imports.
Frozen 1-2 lb and 2-3 lb sockeye fillets were selling at $9-$9.60/lb on June 14, up 16% from Jan. 11 of last year, UCN said.
And fresh, 2-4-lb and 4-6 lb whole sockeyes from Copper River were wholesaling for $6-$8/lb,
Farmed prices predicted to hold steady, for now
Undercurrent News said farmed salmon prices are expected to hold their own for the next few months, with the popular 2-3 pound D-trim fillets staying in the $6.25-$6.60/lb range.
“I think that’s kind of where it’s going to sit for a while.” Shevis Shima at Santa Monica Seafood told UCN. The California-based company is one of North America’s largest seafood distributors. “I don’t think it’s going to really plummet down below $6.00 this year.”
Again, that’s good news for the global salmon market in general.