Mainland tourists push Hong Kong seafood imports back to growth

Published on
September 11, 2017

Hong Kong imports of seafood for local consumption are rebounding after a sharp fall in 2015, according to retail research firm Nielsen. The firm presented its research at Seafood Expo Asia in Hong Kong on 7 September.

Hong Kong’s imports will this year edge above HKD 130 million (USD , EUR ) for the first time since 2014, predicted Michael Lee, an analyst of fast-moving consumer goods and retailer verticals at Nielsen’s office in the city. 

Hong Kong’s seafood imports totaled HKD 127 million (USD , EUR )  in 2016, up from HKD 124 million (USD , EUR ) in 2015 and HKD 139 million (USD , EUR ) in 2014. The figures exclude the massive imports into Hong Kong for transhipment to mainland China and other markets. 

Reasons for the rebound, according to Lee, include stronger local consumer sentiment and a resurgence in tourism from mainland China. Mainland tourists have become a major driver of Hong Kong retail and catering sales but many opted for other destinations following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2015. Nielsen is projecting a four percent year-on-year rise in mainland tourist visitor numbers in 2017. 

“There is strong correlation between Hong Kong restaurant sales and mainland tourist stays in the city,” said Lee. 

Hong Kong has the highest per capita spend on out of home dining in the Asia Pacific region: 13.5 percent of average household income goes on out-of-home dining, compared to 10.7 percent in Korea and 9.7 percent in mainland China. 

Other trends, meanwhile, are changing the seafood market. There’s a gradual shift towards less cooking at home in Hong Kong, twinned by higher spends on retail purchases of seafood – something Lee refers to as “premiumization.” Sales of fresh food are slowing but sales of frozen products are continuing to grow, he added.

High logistics costs are limiting the expansion of online sales of seafood – which currently account for seven to eight percent of Hong Kong seafood sales, according to Lee.

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