Expo News: Norway uses marketing to hold its own in China salmon market

Published on
September 4, 2014

Norway’s seafood export promotion agency is seeing new consumption channels emerging in the Chinese salmon market, including increased consumption at Chinese restaurants that are increasingly serving sashimi as a starter.

“Typically they [Chinese restaurants] serve sashimi with salmon only,” said Sigmund Bjorgo, head of China operations at the Norwegian Seafood Export Council. The growth of China’s Japanese-style restaurant scene is also continuing apace, said Bjorgo, with chains like He Lu opening stores in cities outside of its key Shanghai market.

Speaking at the Asia Seafood Expo in Hong Kong, Bjorgo said Norwegian access to the Chinese market hasn’t improved but Norway’s seafood promotion agency has splashed out on a huge marketing campaign in mainland Chinese cities this summer. A marketing blitz on Beijing and Shanghai buses and subways is part of an effort to support the value chain of distributors and retailers using Norwegian salmon, said Bjorgo.

Access issues aside, Norway continues to hold its own in terms of recognition among mainland Chinese consumers, with focus group research conducted by his office in Beijing and Shanghai showing 90 percent of those polled associated salmon with Norway before any other nation, said Bjorgo. The summer campaign has included point-of-sale materials like place mats and chopstick covers promoting awareness of Norwegian salmon.

“We’re trying to get them into restaurants which serve salmon and also to request salmon in restaurants,” said Bjorgo. “It’s important to show our partners in the value chain that we support them, that Norway is standing by them…it’s either this or do nothing and lose valuable partnerships.”

Access to the mainland China market continued to deteriorate in the first half of 2014, said Bjorgo. But despite Chinese customs heavy and unpredictable inspection regime for Norwegian salmon entering the China marketplace Bjorgo’s office continues to see mainland China as ultimately its key future market. “We continue to believe that China will be the number one market for fresh salmon, it’s only a matter of time,” said Bjorgo.

Meanwhile Chinese processing firms are also reporting growth in Chinese salmon demand. Yantai-based Xingyang Aquatics & Foods Co. is expecting to get a larger amount of sales in China, according to company vice president Yau Man, also speaking at Seafood Expo Asia. Chinese demand for sushi and sashimi related products is increasing said Yau, whose firm has its own smoking operation using Chilean salmon. The firm also imports and processes Russian whelk for the Japanese restaurant market.

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