Different trends for seabass and seabream

Does COVID-19 reveal differences in consumer preferences for seabass and seabream?

In July, the price development for European seabass trended differently from Gilthead seabream. While seabass prices in general saw an increase, the development of seabream was “stable to negative”. Judging from the weekly EU import prices of fresh seabass versus fresh seabream from Turkey, the same situation appears to continue through August.

Obviously, this is a result of stronger supply of seabream than seabass -  or more specifically, a lesser decline of seabream. More interestingly, can this be linked to different preferences in the markets? Without doubt, the bass and bream sector is also suffering from the steep decline in HORECA-sales (Hotels, Restaurants, and Catering) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hypothesis has previously been that these two species have been performing quite equally in the retail and HORECA segment, but is there now grounds to question this hypothesis?

In parallel, fillets of bass and bream, still representing a minor share of the major trade flows apart from exports from Turkey, have gradually found its way into both distribution channels. With the conditions present over the past few months with uncertain short-term demand, unpredictable logistical channels, and where “virus-friendly” packaging and product-form (sealed packaging and ready-to-cook) has been the winner, fillet and frozen products have been a safer and easier choice both to purchase, store and display.

During the first half of 2020, the Turkish export volume of fresh fillets have declined by 16% while frozen fillets have increased by 21%. This accumulates to a slight increase in total fillet exports, while whole fresh bass and bream shows a decrease of 7%.

These numbers are “food for thought”, not only for us analysts but also for the EU industry.

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Image: Maximiliano Poch via Shutterstock.com