China and Taiwan dominate with seafood offerings at Japan's Foodex

Published on
March 15, 2019

China’s booths were the most prominent of the national pavilions at the Foodex trade show held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture – near Tokyo, Japan – from 5 to 8 March. The country’s pavilions were the most numerous, taking up about a quarter of one of the two halls, and they boasted “China” signage extending about a meter above regular booth tops.

Foodex is Asia’s largest food-related trade show. This year there were 80,426 visitors, up from 72,428 in 2018. Among the 3,316 exhibitors occupying 4,554 booth spaces, China and Taiwan also offered the most seafood, mainly processed and either canned or breaded (tempura). 

Sea Knight Foods LLC produces OEM canned foods under many brands. It displayed cans of Chicken of the Sea kipper snacks, John West and Ocean Prince smoked oysters, as well as other brands. The company processes in Dalian, China and also has an office in Miami, Florida. Sea Knight bought a Japanese company, Tencho Foods Co., Ltd., based in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture. At the show, it was promoting canned sardines under that company’s TCF brand.

The Dandong Taihua Foodstuff Co., Ltd., based in Dandong City, Liaoning Province, was displaying short necked clams and scallops, as well as breaded products. Short necked clams in a special sauce developed by a Japanese customer were sampled, and baby clams on a skewer were displayed. A representative at the booth noted that baby clams are popular among the United States market.  

Confidence ran high for Zangzhou New South China International China Trading Co., Ltd., during the Foodex event. The company showcased some of its canned products offered in a variety of sauces. The species of abalone has been a strong seller for the Fuijan-based firm, which uses Haliotis diversicolor abalone. 

When told that Korea (Wando Bay) supplies a lot of canned abalone to Japan, the saleswoman at the Zangzhou New South China International China Trading Co. booth said, “Ours tastes better!” Ezo abalone, or Haliotis discus hannai, is the main product of the Wando Bay and Jeju Island abalone fisheries in South Korea. It is also the only species distributed in North East Japan, and is the most harvested among the six commercially fished abalone species and subspecies in Japan.

A visit to Tokyo-based Maruyasa’s booth revealed the inner makings of Japanese dashi soup stock. Mainly, such a soup stock consists of katuobushi (dried, smoked and fermented bonito) kombu (dried kelp), and niboshi (boiled and dried sardines). But the infinite forms in which these ingredients are offered — thin flakes, thick flakes, powdered — can be overwhelming. Maruyasa proved that a Japanese dashi soup stock is bespoke perfumery, what with its mushrooms, shrimp, squid, and all of the other fish that can be substituted for sardines.

Three companies were focused on eel at the Foodes. Just Champion Enterprise Co., Ltd. of Pingtun, Taiwan offered eel in many forms including roasted head-on or head-off, half cut, and on skewers. 

Fujian Zhaoan Dongxin Foods Co., Ltd. Vice-President Theodore Teng said that his company is sourcing American eels from Maine as well as a “really big quantity” from Haiti. 

Meanwhile, a U.S. company, American Eel Farm LLC (based in Trenton North Carolina and owned by Rick Allyn), displayed smoked eel, but was also on the lookout for a channel to market live eel and elvers. Allyn was aware that harvesting elvers is legal in Haiti, but said that the unstable country is a very dangerous operating environment. 

Allyn also questioned the reported peak prices for elvers last year. According to the Asian Economic Review, “Poor harvests in Japan, China, Taiwan and other locations drove the average price to 3.6 million yen ($33,240) per kilogram at the start of 2018 and to 3.9 million yen or so on Jan. 22. Last year, prices averaged 1.09 million yen.” Though those prices are for Anguilla japonica, and Allyn is selling Anguilla rostrata, he estimates the current market price for the American eel elvers to be USD 5,000 to 7,000 (EUR 4,427-6,197) per kilogram.

Century Pacific Food, Inc., is based in Pasig City, Philippines, and sources tuna out of General Santos. Sidney Morcozo, the company’s export sales and marketing manager, was promoting its Century brand canned tuna. The supplier sells in the United States, including to major retailer Walmart.  

Morcozo said that the brand was usually located in the Asian foods section, as the flake style is different than the chunk tuna more common in the United States. The company also offers sauces and flavors distinctive to the Philippines, including “calimansi,” which tastes like lime. Morcozo was looking to find a contact at the show to enter the Japanese market and said, “Even on the first day, I think we got what we came for!”

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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