Crustaceans, livestreaming key drivers of growth in Chinese seafood sales

Published on
February 25, 2022
Crustaceans represented the best-performing category in China last year, with total sales rising 4 percent by volume to 5.8 million MT.

There was a 1 percent increase in the volume of overall Chinese seafood sales in 2021 to 42 million metric tons (MT), according to London, U.K.-based market research agency Euromonitor.

Crustaceans represented the best-performing category in China last year, with total sales rising 4 percent by volume to 5.8 million MT, recently completed research by Euromonitor showed.

Seafood sales in China are set to grow by 2 percent in 2022, according to the report, which Euromonitor agreed to share with SeafoodSource. 

While retail sales of seafood dropped in 2021 following a surge in demand during 2020 “as a result of home seclusion and the closure of foodservice,” the report noted, “this demand is now shifting back to the latter.”

“Despite an increase in cases of COVID-19 in China during 2021, foodservice across the country has been operating normally for the most part,” it said.

According to Euromonitor, the crustaceans category is set to record the strongest performance in 2021, “following a decline through foodservice the previous year, when the channel was hit hard, as many Chinese consumers tend to eat large numbers of crayfish in restaurants.”

“While demand shifted towards retail, many find the preparing and cooking of this freshwater crustacean to be difficult to replicate at home,” it said.

Sales of crustaceans in 2021 are at a similar level to fish in value terms, even though they’re a fifth of total recorded for fish in volume terms, according to Euromonitor. The trend is being led by rising prices for king crab, a product prized in China’s luxury dining scene.

“While the price of king crab sees significant rises in the global market, it does not affect Chinese consumers’ appetite. Imported volumes are therefore likely to continue to grow rapidly,” Euromonitor reported.

Sales in the fish category softened in terms of total volume growth in 2021 due to lower demand from the food and beverage sector, according to Euromonitor.

“Foodservice dominates demand for fish in China, and therefore closures of the channel in 2020 led to a significant shift towards the home,” it said. “While consumers have gradually returned to foodservice as restrictions have eased, they are eager to try non-fish dishes such as crab and crayfish, which provide more novel experiences.”

Euromonitor is seeing growing consumer acceptance of online sales of fresh seafood, helped by new live-streaming sales models and a more-sophisticated distribution network.

“Building trust amongst consumers in terms of source and having the product delivered to consumers fresh are traditionally two major barriers to selling fish and seafood through e-commerce. However, these barriers are being eroded due to the continuing boom of livestreaming and the advancing development of logistics companies,” Euromonitor said. “Although selling fish and seafood through livestreaming is not a new concept, it is now being rapidly adopted. Identifying strong interest from local consumers, it is becoming increasingly common for many in the local fishing industry to livestream their activities and show customers that their offer is freshly caught from the sea. The local government also promotes this practice, and it has helping fishing villages establish e-commerce solutions to support the introduction of livestreaming on a wider scale.”

According to Euromonitor, Chinese tech firms, including TikTok, have launched programs to train and help small seafood companies with moving their sales online.

“Leading logistics providers have now developed a mature system for chilled and frozen seafood deliveries after several years of practice,” it said. “Fisheries are able to deliver their products bound for retailers within 24 hours for closer locations or 48 hours for remote areas, which only strengthens their capabilities.”

Photo courtesy of TY Lim/Shutterstock

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