Volume sales of fish fingers and fishcakes are falling as higher prices and fewer promotions hit consumption levels.

The fish finger and fishcakes market has risen by 5.9% by value to £126m, but volume sales have slipped 3.6% to 30 million kg [Kantar Worldpanel 52w/e 21 February].

Popular lines such as Birds Eye Omega-3 Fish Fingers are now 3.7% more expensive on average in the big four than a year ago at £1.69 [The Grocer 33].

Higher prices were partly explained by unprecedented fish raw material inflation passed on to shoppers, said Will Hemmings, Birds Eye general marketing manager for fish.

“Given this, the category has experienced some volume attrition over the last year,” he said.

Supermarkets had shifted their promotional tactics from bogofs and extra fill activity towards price-based strategies, said Karen Galloway, market insight manager at Seafish.

Prices have gone up while pack sizes have come down, from 60g to 57g, for instance. “It’s the old chocolate bar scenario,” Galloway said. “There’s been some product engineering to maintain key price points.”

Young females aged from 17 to 44 have been at the heart of the volume decline, having reduced their consumption by 8% over the past year, Kantar analyst Teresa Fisher noted.

Children, whose consumption is static, remain the core consumers of fish fingers and fishcakes.

However, shoppers were not deserting the category, Galloway stressed.

“Fish fingers still remain a mainstay of the fish category and I wouldn’t be concerned by the volume decline. Consumers are not turning away.”

Birds Eye planned to drive base sales over the coming year with a £6m marketing spend to convince shoppers of the benefits of fish fingers, Hemmings said. TV ads kicked off last week and will run until August.

Rival Young’s launched the microwaveable fish finger in September in a move to take the product further into the snack segment.

Read more
Focus On Microwaveable Foods (27 February 2010)
Young’s is helping frozen grow (13 February 2010)
A Birds Eye view: a Q&A with chief executive Martin Glenn (6 February 2010)
Cod now a ‘treat’ as prices increase (23 January 2010)