Demand for fresh salmon has leapt over the past two years but rising prices coupled with falling promotional activity is jeopardising category growth.

More than six million Brits are now tucking into fresh salmon at least once a fortnight, with over 1.1 million more people eating salmon between February 2008 and February 2010 a rise of 22%, according to Kantar. But counter and pre-packed fresh salmon volume sales have actually fallen by 2.7% over the past year [Kantar 52w/e May 16].

Industry experts partly blamed the 3.8% increase in average price to £10.82/kg over the past year [Kantar 52w/e May 16] for the fall in sales. A decline in the number of promotions run by retailers had also had an impact, said The Seafood Company. "This situation is driven by a rise in raw material costs, with price increases and a reduction in promotional activity now reflected in-store," said MD Pete Ward.

The proportion of salmon sold on promotion was down this year compared with last year, confirmed another industry source.

"When people are making their food choices, and you have salmon and poultry and beef on the end of the aisle, if salmon doesn't get its share of the promotional fixture on shelf and it's not available at an attractive price, they will buy something else," he said.

Another explanation for the volume sales fall could be a fall in serving sizes or greater use of salmon as a recipe ingredient, said Kantar strategic insight director Mark Thomson.

"It is likely there will have been an impact from recent price rises, and consumers are becoming more conscious about what's in their basket and how much they spend," he said.

But processors insisted the outlook was still bright. "We believe demand will come back fairly quickly as prices for white fish are also rising," said Simon Smith, Seachill sales and marketing director.

"Salmon has become part of the staple British diet it is quick and easy to prepare, tastes great and people like that."