Janni Zhong is director of the overseas business division at Fujian High Fortune Bio-Tech, based in the Fuqing Export Processing Zone, in Fuzhou, China. The company is a a fishmeal trader with a fish oil refining plant, and it has a GMP plant for omega-3-related products, including for uses in the healthcare industry. Its clients are in the human consumption and healthcare industry, as well as in the aquaculture, aquafeed, and pet food sectors, and include Chilean salmon producers and Chinese pet food producers. In 2018, Fujian High Fortune Bio-Tech was certified as sustainable by MarinTrust (formerly IFFO RS), becoming one of the first Chinese companies to earn such designation.
In an interview with SeafoodSource, Zhong described her company’s position in the marketplace and why it decided to pursue MarinTrust certification, and what the benefits of the certification have been.
SeafoodSource: Who are your primary customers?
Zhong: While being one of the major exporters of fish oil in China, we also sell to our domestic market. The buyer of our fish oil include traders, fish oil refining plants, pet food plants, animal feed producers, [and others]. Thus, our fish oil is not only for human consumption and healthcare sector but also for pets, animals, and aquaculture.
SeafoodSource: What is the benefit of being the first MarinTrust Chain of Custody certified site in China?
Zhong: We find it to be a good tool to help us not only meet food safety management standards, but also consider the measures that cover both the tracking and traceability of [our] product all along the processing, distribution, and marketing chain, as well as the proper tracking of the documentation and control of the quantity concerned. This would help us stay competitive and keep up with global standards. The benefits of obtaining this certification also include emphasis on traceability, transparency, and sustainability, quality assurance, potential broader market access, assurance to client[s], better brand image, and premium positioning. Additionally, [it helps us in] maximizing social responsibility by broadcasting the importance of environmental protection and sustainability.
SeafoodSource: Are your customers impressed that you are one of the first fishmeal producers in China to achieve this certification?
Zhong: [It] is one of the certificates that our client would want us to provide during their annual auditing of their suppliers. Some clients would stress the importance of the product being [MarinTrust]-certified, so I would say this does provide them with a better impression.
SeafoodSource: Do all your customers ask you for certification like MarinTrust?
Zhong: Not all of our customers.
SeafoodSource: Do you think other Chinese fishmeal and fish oil firms will follow you and also get the MarinTrust certification?
Zhong: I think MarinTrust may be more well-known in other regions. The Chinese companies in this industry may not follow so quickly. I think the process of MarinTrust being accepted by the majority may still take some time, as many Chinese companies do not see it as a necessity. And there are costs, time, and effort that they may not wish to invest in.
SeafoodSource: In your presentation in a recent IFFO webinar, you said that providing assurance on traceability and transparency is important for the salmon farming industry. Were you talking about the salmon farming industry in China? Are Chinese salmon farms and consumers very concerned about traceability and sustainability?
Zhong: No. I was actually referring to our clients in Chile instead of in China, as they are in the salmon farming industry and the end-consumers are becoming more and more concerned about what the salmon they consume is being fed with. But yes, the Chinese salmon farms and consumers are also concerned about traceability and sustainability.
SeafoodSource: Does the Marin Trust provide companies allow your customers to seek more high-end positioning in the marketplace?
Zhong: I think MarinTrust can provide assurance to some extent. However, the assurance would be built upon many other factors, such as the actual quality and profile of the raw material itself, trust, and long-term business relations, [as well as] other certifications.
SeafoodSource: In the webinar, you said the pet food sector is eager to demonstrate compliance with certification standards. Can you explain this further?
Zhong: We supply fish oil as an additive to pet food plants, and we also have this product for the end-consumer – it is fish oil in bottles that can be sprayed directly on pet food or treats, so it adds flavor and nutrition to pet food. In my presentation, rather than suggesting that the pet food sector is eager to demonstrate compliance with certification standards, I expressed my view about the pet food sector from another angle. I think pet food and other products have huge potential in China and many of these products are sold online.
E-commerce is a big trend in China, and we know that China’s e-commerce market size tops the world, according to the “E-Commerce in China 2019” report released recently by the Ministry of Commerce. Per the report, there were more than 900 million online shoppers in 2019. Since 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, e-commerce platforms have registered more [sales] volume. Observations show that packaging design and how you brand and advertise your products is becoming seemingly significant. Especially the pet industry, which is still a rising market in China. For the pet field, we can see many retailers have utilized premiumization and humanization on formulas, packaging, and design very well.
Thus, I think this is a market-driven story. To be able to stand out and compete with major international brands, the Chinese pet food brands would want to present themselves as award winning and high-standard brands to perform premiumization of their brand.
Photo courtesy of Janni Zhong