Every autumn marks the biggest event for seafood importers in China: the Qingdao Seafood Exhibition. One of the world’s largest seafood shows, the exhibition always generates new business and opportunities in an ever-changing market.
TSI has worked in this space before, notably helping Australian company Brolos (from The Geraldton Fisherman’s Cooperative) to create the first branded lobster in the China marketplace, and to develop and design branded packaging that allows the lobster to be sold via e-commerce and delivered to the customer’s door.
It’s a market that is moving fast, with China, the world’s largest exporter of seafood, on the cusp of becoming a net importer as domestic consumption booms.
In order to get beneath the surface and bring you insights and perspective from people in the field, TSI has launched an Interview series. For our first edition, we spoke with Shanghai-based G Fresh, a B2B platform for seafood that was founded in 2014 and is targeting US$1.5 billion in sales for 2018, and Jemma McCowan of New Zealand King Salmon, who are strategizing to bring a new product to market, to hear about the consumer-facing side.
Justin Oakes, North American agent, G Fresh:
“G Fresh platform is half live and half frozen, but it isn’t limited to any one species. The majority of volume is driven by shellfish, like lobster and crab, and salmon. Salmon is really popular in China and getting more popular every day.”
[ABOVE: Fishery on Iceland]
“China is opening up a lot more to imports. There are several free trade agreements that have gone into effect. Iceland, for example, has a ton of awesome seafood, and a lot of companies from Iceland are looking for ways to access the China market. US oysters were previously banned by the Chinese customs but that market was opened up in the last couple of weeks, so there will be some opportunities there. And then China re-opened its market to Norwegian seafood after being banned for several years.”
“More and more air groups are launching flights directly to China, and that’s going to create more opportunities from a logistics point of view.”
“China Customs is very good for live seafood. Right now, we’re looking at US beef, and the amount of regulations compared to lobster is significant. Beef might be in customs for three days, whereas lobsters go through in 8-12 hours.”
“Right now, 2nd and 3rd tier cities are almost untapped. Most of our volume goes through Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. But I expect 2nd and 3rd tier cities will develop into great markets in the near future.”
[ABOVE: New Zealand King Salmon]
Jemma McCowan, New Zealand King Salmon
Our king salmon is a very unique species but it’s significantly more expensive than most salmon on the market. We’re trying to introduce new species that no one knows about.
The salmon category is quite an experience in China, where people go, ‘oh it’s a piece of orange fish, I’ll buy it’. Whereas we’re trying to put out a different product that sits alongside another salmon, and people need to know why do I pay more for that one? So, the brand and the communication are really essential to make sure we stand out on that basis.
We’ve been relatively reactive to sales interest and sales contracts in the past, and we’ve realized we have quite a unique product that needs a lot of explanation and support in the seafood market in order to stand out and create a point of difference. And in order to determine what will stand out and achieve value for our business, we need to be well connected with consumers.
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