Chinese supermarket chain pushes US imports


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
September 24, 2013

Northeast U.S. seafood exports are being helped along this month by a marketing blitz in a Beijing supermarket chain popular with China’s wealthy. Running from 13-26 September at BHG Supermarkets, owned by the Beijing Hualian conglomerate, the promotion pushes three key species: scallops, redfish and lobster. The campaign is run by Seafood Export Northeast, a federal export promotions body which drives demand overseas for seafood from ten northeastern states, including Maine, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

When SeafoodSource visited BHG’s outlet in Sanlitun this week, U.S. lobster was selling at RMB 69.80 (USD 11.40, EUR 8.43) per 500g while U.S. redfish was selling for RMB 29.80 (USD 4.87, EUR 3.60) for 500g.

Timed well to coincide with the traditional mid-Autumn festival and the run up to the annual National Day holiday (which runs through the first week of October) the promotion was organized by a local marketing agency hired by Seafood Export Northeast USA. The promotion was also pushed in media adverts including a full-page advertisement in the Mandarin-language edition of Time Out magazine.

In-store advertising at eleven BHG outlets across Beijing includes a range of recipes — available to customers in leaflet format — devised by leading Chinese chefs featuring ways of preparing scallops, redfish and lobster. Liu Xin Xin, chef at the Accor Hotel Beijing properties for instance devised a scallop dish. Meanwhile a western-style redfish dish was devised by He Li Zhi, a chef at both the Peninsula Hotel and Hong Kong Macau Centre Hotel in Beijing. 

Linking with an international seafood promotion agency also serves to drive BHG’s sales of high-margin imported foodstuffs and garnishes. “We are very happy to have a promotion of seafood if it also helps sales of our other products,” said floor manager surnamed Zhang, pointing to the Kuhne and Ybarra brands of vinaigrette and olives which listed and photographed on recipe brochures for a lobster-avocado salad recipe devised by chef Li Xin.

With 12 stores in Beijing alone, BHG has used its background in a state-owned conglomerate to secure prime real estate slots in malls across the city, dwarfing other chains like Jenny Lou’s and Cityshop. Choosing to locate near middle-class favorites like Starbucks and Costa Coffee outlets and wine stores, BHG remains focused on imported goods, which typically make up over 80 percent of each store’s shelf space.

Demand from China for lobsters and whelk has replaced slowing demand in traditional European markets like France, Italy and Spain, according to Colleen Coyne, seafood program coordinator at the Food Export USA-Northeast. A delegation from the company will travel to the China seafood expo in Dalian in November.

Promotions by Coyne’s organization date back to November last year when Food Export USA-Northeast sponsored an importer seminar event in Marriott City Center, Shanghai to promote seafood products and train local chefs in use of American seafood.

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