Growing incomes and increased urbanisation have helped fuel a massive growth in demand for imported seafood; China currently accounts for one-quarter of the world’s seafood consumption.
By 2020, the United Nation’s FAO predicts it will need an extra 16 million metric tonnes of seafood to meet growing demand and the Chinese market is seen as an important destination for Irish seafood, predominantly for pelagic species.
In the last few years, significant effort has been invested by processors and Bord Bia to identify and develop opportunities for premium shellfish, notably live and processed brown crab; langoustines; scallops and razor clams.
“The strong and sustained growth in exports in recent years demonstrates the continued success of Ireland’s leading shellfish processors in penetrating this valuable market,” remarked Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia CEO.
Exports of shellfish increased in value by over 32% (2015- 2016), while exports to Hong Kong increased by 13% during the same period.
“Bord Bia has ambitious plans to further grow the share of Irish seafood into China and has a number of programmes in place to assist Irish seafood processors in identifying, profiling and targeting new customers that are willing to pay a premium for quality seafood from Ireland.”
Through its trade development programme, Bord Bia has welcomed high-end retail and foodservice Chinese customers to Ireland to meet with seafood processors on a one-to-one basis. These itineraries generated new business and afforded Irish companies with an excellent opportunity to showcase their processing facilities and the premium environment in which Irish seafood is produced.
These visits can provide a guarantee to Chinese customers on traceability, sustainability and food safety, all key issues of growing concern to the Chinese middle class consumer, says Bord Bia.
During the last three years, Bord Bia has welcomed more than 35 Asian customers to Ireland, and many of these visits have delivered new business.
In line with the explosion of online sales & marketing in China, Bord Bia has taken a lead position, establishing a premium WeChat account to promote and present Irish seafood at trade and consumer level. Bord Bia is also actively engaged with online sales platforms such as TMall as a new route-to-market for Irish exporters.
Plans for 2018 and beyond
In 2018, Bord Bia will target its promotional efforts in China by increasing awareness of new species such as velvet crab, blue lobster and Irish prawns through cookery demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, focusing on introducing recipes that are new to the Chinese market.
The campaign will assist Irish seafood processors to sell their ranges to distributors servicing the premium restaurants and hotels in Beijing and Shanghai. Chinese consumers will also be educated and informed through a comprehensive programme of in-store tastings with supermarket retail chains, says Bord Bia.
The agency is also targeting online marketing to promote Irish seafood directly to Chinese consumers.