China show blog: Getting creative in China's massive seafood market

IntraFish, the official media sponsor of the China Seafood and Fisheries Expo, is blogging live from the Qingdao International Expo Center for the 2016. Follow along here!

--------------------------------------------

Friday, Nov. 4, 2.06 p.m. CST

Thai Union debuts King Oscar in China

Seafood giant Thai Union was at the China show for the first time this year, introducing its new range of value-added seafood products for the Chinese market.

Having been present in China for the last 15 years through its joint venture with Century Pacific Foods, China’s no. 1 canned tuna brand, Thai Union is now introducing a range of frozen and chilled high end seafood products under its King Oscar and Thai Union brands, including shrimp, salmon and lobster.

“China is a high-growth market ready for innovation and ready to pay a premium for high quality seafood,” Faisal Sheikh, emerging markets managing director at Thai Union, told IntraFish.

Known in other parts of the world as a canned seafood brand, this will be Thai Union’s first foray into frozen and other formats with the King Oscar brand.

“There is no pre-conceived notion about the King Oscar brand in China,” said Sheikh, adding China to date has largely been a market for unbranded product, with more emphasis on low price.

“Our main challenge is to educate consumers as to why they should pay more,” said Sheikh.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Friday, Nov. 4, 1.48 p.m. CST

Zoneco: Creating a more science-based industry

Zoneco’s new joint venture with Atlantis Qingdao Biotechnology and US-based Atlantic Cape Fisheries aims to develop hatcheries for bivalves such as scallops, oysters and abalone, with improved yield.

Currently at the R&D stage, the final objective is to supply the Chinese shellfish farming industry with higher yielding seed with which to ongrow their products.

“Biotechnology is fundamental of [Zoneco],” Chairman Wu Hougang told IntraFish.

The strategy with the new venture is to improve ocean ranching and to demonstrate social responsibility, by servicing not just its own company, but other companies in China, he said.

“We want to evolve from a farming operation to a global resource management company.

“We’re using our JV as a platform and we’re looking forward to working with the marine industry across the world -- not just China, but the world.”

Wu said Zoneco wants to change ocean-farming globally into a more science-based industry.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Friday, Nov. 4, 11.35 a.m. CST

Back to Basics

New Zealand seafood giant Sanford is excited at its upcoming plans and told IntraFish it will launch nutraceutical products in 2017 and "may seek marketplace partners."

The company uses the remainder of the salmon from its fillet processing to turn into fishmeal.

However, "that is a low-value outcome as it loses a lot of the salmon's nutrients," said Andrew Stanley, general manager of innovation.

Instead, to fully tap into these nutrients, the company is "investigating marine extract for human and animal nutraceutical, dietary supplements and food ingredients for formulated foods."

"We're exploring opportunities to refine it down to edible outcomes and present it to markets that see value in the product," he told IntraFish. "Some marine products have special qualities, such as anti-inflammatory qualities in green shell mussels. There are few non-drug products with anti-inflammatory qualities in market."

He added, the company has "gone back to basics and invested in research and trials to understand the best processing method. This is absolutely science based."

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Friday, Nov. 4, 11.08 a.m. CST

Pangasius oil, anyone?

Vietnamese pangasius producer and processor International Development & Investment Corporation (IDI) launched its new pangasius fish oil two years ago. The company recently started introducing the cooking oil into the Chinese market.

Made from pangasius skin and fat, the fish oil has been "difficult" to get into China.

"Many customers are taking an interest in the product, but we need to find out where and how to distribute it," said Ranee Nguyen.

Although they're starting with small quantities to China, she feels confident because "we've built the market in China years ago already."

The company exports 100 containers of pangasius to China each month. In comparison, it exports about 90 to 100 containers to the rest of its markets combined, which includes the United States, Canada, Europe and Brazil.

All of its pangasius is for export only. Its Dong Thap Province facility employs about 10,000 workers. To China, IDI sells whole fish, fillets and some pangasius steaks to supermarkets and restaurants.

"We set a high price for our pangasius because it's high quality," said Le Van Chinh, adding Chinese are looking for high quality fish today.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Thursday, Nov. 3, 5.00 p.m. CST

Alibaba invests in Gfresh

Seafood e-commerce website Gfresh has secured $20 million (€22.2 million) in funding from Internet giant Alibaba and Legend Capital, the companies announced.

Both Alibaba, through Riverhill Capital, and Legend Capital will be joining Gfresh's board.

Click here to read the full story.

--IntraFish Media

--------------------------------------------

Thursday, Nov. 3, 1.25 p.m. CST

'Always a market' in China

The Asian general manager of Scottish pelagic giant Northbay Pelagic, formerly Fresh Catch,  is finding creative ways to sell the company’s products in the Chinese market.

“There is always a market in China,” said Lisa Chen, who is selling whole frozen mackerel, herring and capelin to Chinese processors, as well as using avenues such as for feed for dolphins and sealions in marine parks.

Northbay also exports brown crab and plays a role in helping buyers market it both through online channels such as Tmall and and high end international supermarkets like Ole and CityShop.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Thursday, Nov. 3, 11.10 a.m. CST

Trade balance shifts between Japan and China

Japanese giant Nissui has been exporting to the Chinese market for around two years now and is seeing good potential in the high-end and mid-range markets for its seafood.

Its farmed bluefin tuna from its aquaculture subsidiary is being sold to high end restaurants in Chinese cities and is finding the same price it does on the Japanese market, according  to Daisuke Yamamoto, general manager for international sales and business development in the company’s Tokyo headquarters.

It is also exporting substantial volumes of canned seafood from its Thai processing factories to mid-range supermarkets in the country.

Traditionally an importer from China, Nissui has 15 factories in the country, as well as factories in Thailand, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Yamamoto agreed there were now some challenges with processing costs in China and forsees a shift towards more value-addition in Nissui’s Chinese plants, as well as more investment in Vietnam as a cheaper alternative processing center.

With an extensive range of Japanese supermarkets operating in China, Nissui has access to consumer information and although ‘this is just  the beginning,’ sees China as a strong developing market for the company.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8.45 p.m. CST

US pavilion needs cohesive US brand

"As th US seafood industry works toward accessing a high quality market in Asia, we need to strengthen our efforts in the United States," said Annie Tselikis, marketing manager of lobster company Maine Coast​.

"One way to do that is to strengthen our presence as a nation at shows like this China expo and improve upon our pavilion.

"To do that the industry needs to work with their delegates and the USDA to constantly improve upon marketing."

She told IntraFish a cohesive US brand "will create a space for individual seafood companies to market their products, which will in turn support the people working in commercial fishing and aquaculture operations in every coastal town and city in the US. Our fisheries and aquaculture businesses directly benefit from good marketing in our export markets."

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8.29 p.m. CST

Marine Harvest: VAP potential in China

With 35 percent of the global market share for Atlantic salmon, aquaculture firm Marine Harvest is looking "to go a step further in the Chinese marketplace," said Marketing Manager Johnny Zhao.

"The Chinese market is growing very quickly and consumers here know salmon is healthy and tasty," he said.

However, research shows 80 to 90 percent of salmon consumption in China is in the form of salmon roe or sushi due to Japan's influence.

"We want to give them a variety" of ways to eat and prepare salmon, particularly cooked salmon, he told IntraFish.

"The Chinese market is still very traditional, it's not developed like Europe or the US. We're looking to promote value added products and want to increase the value of the industry. There's a huge potential here in China for that."

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8.15 p.m. CST

ASMI finds confidence in new China promos

"China is the No. 1 export country for Alaskan seafood in the world," said ASMI's Roger Zhang. "King crab, Pacific cod, yellowfin sole are popular with the consumers. Last year we started promoting herring roe, herring and pollock roe."

He told IntraFish they saw positive results and feedback.

"That gives us confidence with promoting new seafood items," he said, adding he's proud of the branding image they've established in the Chinese marketplace after entering it 19 years ago.

He said income and living standards are both up and consumers now "want better quality and are willing to pay for it."

A scandal involving Chinese seafood a few years ago also eroded trust among Chinese consumers with local seafood.

"This created an opportunity for imports of US seafood, particularly Alaska seafood, which is high quailty, wild and natural," Zhang said.

Sustainability is also becoming increasingly "important to be able to supply the Chinese market long term."

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 5.30 p.m. CST

Branching beyond just whole lobster

Orion Seafood International is looking to promote other lobster product forms in China.

Thai Union’s subsidiary Tri-Union Frozen Products, Inc, doing business as Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods (COSFF), acquired Orion Seafood International in 2015.

The company sells mostly frozen whole lobster to Chinese importers and "demand has gone up every year," said Peter Anastasia of COSFF export sales.

Orion started exporting lobster to China about seven to eight years ago and has a well-established product, but is now looking to do more by promoting lobster tails and meat, he told IntraFish.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 5.12 p.m. CST

China gobbles up Greenland halibut

Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Fisher King Seafoods has seen a "continued increase in demand" among Chinese consumers, particularly with Greenland halibut.

"Supply is definitely a challenge over demand," said John Andrews, export sales manager of Fisher King.

The company, which partnered with Japanese seafood firm Nichirei in 2009, also exports whole frozen lobster to China.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 5.06 p.m. CST

Changing Chinese minds on frozen seafood

Dianne Hu, China marketing director for Canada's Clearwater, said seafood "demand is increasing rapidly" among Chinese consumers.

"Income levels are increasing and people are dining out more. They want high quality and they're willing to pay a high price for it."

However, Chinese consumers still prefer live seafood over frozen.

"We promote live lobsters, but need to also promote frozen lobster," she said. "It takes time to educate Chinese consumers on frozen lobster and frozen-at-sea seafood," referring to Clearwater's arctic surf clam products.

Frozen-at-sea seafood can be better than live because live seafood diminishes in quality when it travels long distances, she said.

As the first branded imported lobster product in China, Clearwater has stuck to its slogan of offering high meat content from wild hardshell lobsters because it "wanted to differentiate from softshell lobsters.

"The way we select our lobster is different, we screen each one," she told IntraFish.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 4:55 p.m. CST

Technology paves a path into China

Andrew Lively, marketing director at Cooke Aquaculture's marketing arm True North, told IntraFish the company on Tuesday launched a promotion on WeChat, a Chinese messaging and calling app used for social and business communications.

The promotion is a QR code and when scanned, offers people information about True North salmon. A flow of visitors stopping by their expo booth checked out the QR code while passing by and Lively said number of visitors is measurable on their end.

Cyr Couturier, VP of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, said Cyr is also are looking into the online Chinese community.

"We just launched yesterday a significant e-commerce promotion on JD Fresh, a new division of JD.com."

The platform has more than 200 million customers and unlike other e-commerce sites, JD Fresh takes care of the logistics of the cold chain and distribution, he said.

Canada is pushing its lobster, crab, salmon and oysters to China through the site.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 3.54 p.m. CST

Selling the story

Cermaq’s new group marketing director has some positive things to say about his observations of the aquaculture industry since he started with Cermaq in June.

“There have been some good examples of storytelling and branding with a clear message in the aquaculture sector,” Anders Tofte Wilhelmsen told IntraFish, when he stopped by the booth this afternoon.

“What’s good in aquaculture is its focus around sustainability,” he said, comparing it to the chicken industry, where as a more established sector it has grown from a less sustainable base and is now having to take ‘a step backward’ to safeguard its future growth.

In terms of marketing, he observes the industry is less professionalized than other sectors, but said that is to be expected of a young industry and with the influx of many big food execs onto the boards of aquaculture producers he expects this to change.

As for his marketing plans for Cermaq, he would go no further than to say that changes are afoot!

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 3.01 p.m. CST

Low squid catches impact sales

Higher prices are the one happy side effect of a supply shortage, and Chinese processor Bai Xian Food is experiencing that first hand.

Supplying wild caught product for export and domestic distribution from its two factories in Taiwan and Fujian province, Bai Xian this year has been hit by low Chinese squid catches and while its volumes are down, high prices have softened the blow.

While Manager Jerry Tsai hopes catches will improve, the company is now working on new markets, outside the already saturated US and European markets, with a focus on the Middle East and South America.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2.41 p.m. CST

Tough times for Chinese processing

China Starfish vice export manager Michael Lee paints a bleak picture of the Chinese seafood processing sector.

“It has become difficult to make money on processing in recent years,” he told IntraFish, adding many smaller processors have closed due to higher labor costs and difficulty with financing.

And as we are all aware it is not just smaller players struggling to balance the books. "The banks won't help them," said Lee of fellow processor Pacific Andes' epic downfall.

From its end, as a key pollock processor, a struggling European economy has had a knock-on effect on its prices, but  long-term relationships with large buyers  -- Royal Greenland, Unibond, Pomona, to name a few -- have kept export volumes stable.

But with no sign of things improving in the near future, its strategy going forward to grow its $100 million revenues is to focus more on its domestic market, where recent growth has seen it climb to account for 30 percent of StarFish’s sales.

The domestic market is also home to the company’s foray into processing and packing direct for retail, and as well as its own brand -- Haimai -- it processes shrimp under brands for Sirena, Pescapuerta and Fresh Catch.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 1.47 p.m. CST

Breaking new markets

Jean-Charles Diener, director at OFCO Sourcing, is at the China show for the first time this year.

His seafood consulting and inspection service already lists 40 clients in Vietnam, South America and Canada and now he is working on China.

His impression is that the industry is not immediately open to external consulting, but he thinks with time, it will open up, just as it did in the company’s other markets.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 1.05 p.m. CST

Tightening regs in Chinese market

It’s not all great news for Chinese market suppliers.

Indian processor and exporter Sea Saga is seeing increasing tightening of import regulations into China, which accounts for 40 percent of its sales, an observation IntraFish has heard from other suppliers at the show this year.

As chance would have it this has come at the same time as drops in Indian wild caught supply, so while the Chinese market is shrinking for them, it goes hand in hand with a reduced supply situation, explained Shabaz Elias, from the company’s trading arm Seahaven.

But despite the wild supply drop-off, farmed vannamei production in India is helping fill capacity and enabling the company to expand to a fourth factory next year in Mumbai.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 12.47 p.m. CST

Selling carp to the Chinese

A new company exhibiting at its first ever seafood trade show this week has a novel concept: Selling Asian carp, wild caught in Mississippi, to the Chinese.

California-based 88 resources is banking on 400,000 pounds of exports a month, on the premise that the fish is certified organic, “cheaper than pangasius and tastes better than tilapia”, Sales Manager Randy Ho told IntraFish.

Added bonus: As an invasive species in the United States, the government is offering subsidies to fish it.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 12.27 p.m. CST

Ecuadorian shrimp: China's third most recognizable food brand

Ecuador’s low density production is allowing it to position itself beautifully amongst Chinese consumers and it has no plans for that to change.

There is plenty of room to grow within this model, with better growth rates, lower mortality and improved feed conversion ratios, said Jose Antonio Camposano, president of Ecuador's National Aquaculture body CNA, when IntraFish sat down with him and the Promarisco general manager this morning.

Ecuadorian shrimp’s newest marketing concept ‘Aquaculture 2.0’ focuses in on that and the growth of their sustainable model.

It is after all their biggest marketing tool in its key market, China, where the Ecuadorian shrimp brand was recently ranked as third most recognizable amongst Chinese buyers.

And this is filtering down to consumers too and means 50 percent of Ecuadorian shrimp production is now sold on the market.

‘We had no idea four years ago that we were going to open a new market,” said Camposano.

“It is amazing. And it is good not to be dependent on two big markets, but three,” he said.

Camposano said the China trend will continue and awareness amongst Chinese consumers will aid it in other markets too, where Chinese buyers and communities demand the same level of quality.

Markets closer to home are also very much on the radar for Ecuadorian producers and CNA recently took up its case over the ban of imported shrimp into neighboring Brazil with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“There are two routes to take on these issues -- bilateral talks and the WTO -- and after seven years of bilateral talks, we are left with no choice,” said Camposano.

The ban is based on the premise of stopping whitespot from entering the country, but news yesterday that whitespot is nonetheless in the country has the Ecuadorians finally putting their case to the WTO.

-- Rachel Mutter

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 11.59 a.m. CST

Canadian farmers doubling exports to China

Cyr Couturier, VP of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, said Chinese "demand this year is increasing and most are saying they will double their imports this year to China," referring to Canadian aquaculture companies.

He added come Nov. 13, new import regulations on food safety will start in China, which has stringent traceability requirements.

"This could be a problem for some," he told IntraFish, but not for Candian salmon farmers who know their fish "egg to plate."

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 11.30 a.m. CST

China seeks out traceability, sustainability

Andrew Lively, marketing director at Cooke Aquaculture's marketing arm True North, said the Chinese market is booming in demand and there's interest in every imported product form and species.

"Canada absolutely is a growing market for us, especially for our salmon," he told IntraFish.

"Not just our salmon but our other products too: scallops, oysters, Alaskan salmon, Dungeness crab, etc..."

He added the demand is for traceable, sustainable and high quality seafood.

"People want to know the story behind seafood."

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 11.13 p.m. CST

Chang International adjusts to demand shift

Demand among Chinese seafood consumers is moving more toward imported products, said Stone Wang, general manager of the Chang International facility in Qingdao.

With more than 100 SKUs, Seattle and China-based seafood processor Chang International looks to diversify and has found a recent growing interest in toothfish and other imported species among its Chinese customers.

"We target a market that is a little more high-end," said Wang. He added the top species among his Chinese clients are sea bass, black cod, wild shrimp and pacific cod.

On Tuesday, IntraFish toured the company's Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified facility in Qingdao where it imports, processes, packages and exports seafood products under its Ocean Gala Marine Resources Co., Ltd., brand, which launched around six and a half years ago.

The plant was built from scratch in 2006 and currently employs 400 workers.

Some of the species the company deals with include wild sea cucumber, wild chum, pink, sockeye and farmed Atlantic salmon, wild pollock, cod, halibut and several crab and shrimp varieties.

Check out Chang International's full product list at booth E2-0421 at the expo. The company recently won a contract to supply Disneyland Shanghai -- the entertainment giant's first foray into the Chinese market.

Check back with IntraFish to see the full story and photo gallery.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 10.30 p.m. CST

Spanish seafood delegation returning to China seafood show

Spain's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Environment (MAGRAMA) will join eight exhibiting Spanish companies the expo.

The companies belong to four different sectorial associations: Anfaco-Cecopesca, Apromar, Cepesca and Conxemar.

The Counselor of Agriculture of the Spanish Embassy in Beijing, Samuel Juárez, is also attending.

The Spanish delegation through business meetings and its own pavilion (E1-1210) will participate in several events throughout the fair to strengthen the Spanish position at CFSE.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 10.30 p.m. CST

IntraFish ready to take on China expo

The IntraFish team has all arrived and are ready for the the China Seafood and Fisheries Expo in Qingdao.

Organizers said they set a new record for exhibit space for the 15th consecutive year.

The 21st expo will be at the Qingdao International Expo Center (CFSE), and total exhibit space comes to nearly 35,000 square meters, a 16 percent boost over last year. An estimated 25,000 visitors from 100 countries are expected to attend.

“We’ve seen another surge in the number of national pavilions," said Peter Redmayne, president of Seattle-based Sea Fare Expositions, Inc., the co-founder and overseas organizer of the show.

"This year, for example, we have a very large pavilion from the Russian Federation, as well as new pavilions from Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Spain. In addition we’re seeing a lot more individual companies exhibiting from Asian countries such as Korea and Japan, as they look to sales in China to replace declining sales in their traditional markets.”

Overseas companies now account for about a third of the show’s exhibit space. The show has 22 national pavilions this year.

Stop by IntraFish's booth at E1-1017 to share some news or meet some of our staffers.

We'll will be on the ground, so keep checking back here to get all the news from this year's events.

Click here to catch up on our coverage from the 2015 show.

--Kim Tran

--------------------------------------------

For more seafood news and updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our daily newsletter.