Domino’s sells tilapia pizzas in China as farmers fear June price slump

Published on
May 8, 2020

Tilapia is proving a popular topping for the Chinese outlets of the world’s top seller of pizzas.

The “tilapia and pineapple” option is a new addition to the spring menu at 260 Chinese outlets franchised from Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.-headquartered Domino’s, which claims to be the world’s leading retailer of cooked pizzas.

The chain, which goes by the Mandarin name “Da Mei Le,” retails a CNY 59 (USD 8.26, EUR 7.76) nine-inch tilapia pizza at its store on Beijing’s affluent Chaoyang Lu street, which operated through the coronavirus on a delivery service until opening its doors again for sit-down customers last week. Since reopening, the outlet has done a brisk trade in the tilapia pizza, according to staff who answered the delivery hotline.

New sources of domestic demand could prove crucial for Chinese tilapia farmers and processors worried about overseas demand in key markets like the U.S. being tempered by coronavirus lockdowns.

Tilapia processors are acutely worried about demand from June onwards, according to a representative of a Chinese tilapia production and processing firm who spoke to SeafoodSource on the condition of anonymity. U.S. importers are currently working off stocks built up after Chinese tilapia plants reopened in late February, said the processor.

“We project the lowest price for tilapia will be from around the middle of June, plus or minus one month,” the representative said.

This could in turn lead to plants curtailing daily production capacity very soon, according to the representative. He thinks farm gate prices for tilapia could fall from a current CNY 3.90 (USD 0.54, EUR 0.50) per 500 grams – CNY 0.20 higher than before Chinese New Year – to CNY 3.80 (USD 0.53, EUR 0.49) or less by the end of May.

While the Chinese retail sector has taken up a “certain degree of demand,” foodservice buying has been “feeble,” the representative said. Foodservice is traditionally a volume buyer, as tilapia is a popular low-cost input in restaurants across China.

Getting tilapia onto menus at local pizzerias would help create demand for the fish. Domino’s claims its China sales have grown 30 to 50 percent since 2017, outpacing the industry norm, and it is aiming to operate 500 to 700 stores in China by 2023.

Domino’s has in recent years focused on China and India for new growth and has exited the Northern European market.  In Asia, the firm has sought to add local tastes to its menu – durian and tilapia being two – in its Chinese outlets, which compete with another U.S. brand, Pizza Hut, for market share.

Photo courtesy of Domino's

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