By Mark Godfrey, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from Beijing, China
Published on 13 March, 2013
The purchasing power of China’s expanding restaurant and supermarket chains are clearly the focus of a Canadian seafood marketing campaign in the country’s business capital this weekend.
Organized by Canada’s trade board and embassy officials, events on 15 March will include a supermarket promotion with Shanghai outlets of membership-based Sam's Club and a menu promotion with Junlai Seafood, a high-end establishment popular with Shanghai’s business elite.
“We chose Sam’s Club for the promotion because it’s a high-end membership supermarket with a strict food safety control system… and it’s a chain store which is expanding in China.” Claire Zhu, a trade commissioner with the Food & Fishery brief at the Canadian consulate in Shanghai explained.
Canadian seafood companies involved in the promotion include Clearwater and Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation. “We are also working closely with our Chinese seafood importers in the promotion,” Zhu told Seafoodsource.
Lobster and freshwater fish will be cooked by celebrity chef Colin Ni at Junlai, which was chosen because it’s a high-end seafood specialty restaurant with five outlets in Shanghai, explained Zhu. “The restaurant chain will expand its Canadian seafood items during and after the promotion,” said Zhu. Guests at the Junlai banquet will include the secretary general of Shanghai Fisheries Trade Association, she added.
Canada’s consul general Rick Savone will open the marketing campaign on by launching a Canadian Seafood in-store promotion and cooking demo at Shanghai’s largest Sam’s Club before guests and media are bussed to Junlai Seafood Restaurant for the launch of a Canadian-themed menu by the restaurant chain. Canadian seafood products to be featured at Sam’s Club include lobster, Dungeness crab, geoduck, scallop, salmon, tuna and freshwater fish.
Access for Canadian firms into China’s large and growing seafood restaurant chains may be helped by the choice of chef hired for the evening: Colin Ni is general manager of Lindys Food Service Consultant Co. and previously served as national executive chef for Unilever Food Solutions China. Ni is also well connected to China’s seafood restaurant chains, having trained staff at Shanghai Jade Garden — another fast growing chain — a well as the Hongxin restaurant chain and Bingshen restaurant chain in the cities of Chengdu and Guangzhou respectively. Ni also consulted for Shenzhen Air-a subsidiary of national carrier Air China in developing the airline’s air-catering business and inflight menus.
Seeking to tap into the scale provided by Chinese restaurant chains, Clearwater has linked with influential Beijing chain Jingdingxuan, with the Clearwater logo stamped in the Cantonese-style chains menus to highlight its scallops, served in the restaurant.
A key supplier of crustaceans to high-end Chinese diners, Canada has a stirling reputation for quality in China, though unscrupulous distributors here have often labeled domestic and other imported product as Canadian to extract higher margins. The quality of Canadian seafood is stressed on a Chinese-language agri-food website which includes posts added by Canada’s team of trade commissioners based throughout China.