Sales of prawns have overcome an early-recession blip to return to volume growth.

Retail sales have grown 1.6% in volume over the past year to 34 million kg [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 24 January], reversing a 1.7% drop in 2008. Value sales are also up 2.8% to £310m.

Sales had been boosted by regular gondola-end promotions and two-for-one offers, said Paul Vita, commercial director at Lyons Seafoods.

The level of promotions helped prawns become an "everyday treat" and shoppers were increasingly switching from small coldwater prawns to warmwater king prawns, and from frozen to chilled, he added.

"Prawns are an impulse purchase. The key now is to increase the frequency of purchase," he said.

Lower pricing had helped prawns, which in some cases were now cheaper than meat, to shake off their premium image to become an affordable, versatile seafood that could be incorporated into a wide range of dishes, said Tom Pickerell, development manager at the Shellfish Association of Great Britain.

SAGB and industry authority Seafish had been working hard to explode the myth that prawns were high in cholesterol, as well as persuade consumers to include prawns as part of their two portions of fish a week, said Pickerell. "They are quick, easy, have no bones and the health message is getting across."

Meanwhile the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group reported that oyster sales increased fourfold last week in the run-up to Valentine's Day.

About 140,000 oysters were sold in the week, with mussels sales doubling.

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