Seafood will feature big on China’s retail ‘holiday’

Published on
November 3, 2015

Anything goes this week on China’s vibrant online stores as the busiest shopping day of the year approaches. Various imported seafood products are being wheeled out on the country’s leading e-commerce site Tmall.com for China’s Singles Day on 11 November on its new pre-order service through which consumers put down a deposit on products with the deal transacted later once the supply is secured. The heavily promoted new system allows Tmall to better predict and supply on key periods like Singles Day. Often compared to Black Friday in the United States, Singles Day, or “11-11” as it has become known, has become the busiest shopping day of the year for China’s booming online shopping scene.

Tmall appears to have put a special effort into promoting seafood for this year’s Singles Day, with a much publicized photo shoot showing Jack Ma – boss of Alibaba, the parent company of Tmall and a major celebrity in China – tasting Scottish salmon and other imported seafoods such as Canadian lobster, served by chefs at a photo call announcing the Tmall offerings for 11-11.

Scottish salmon sells for CNY 78 (USD 12.31, EUR 11.23) for 400g portions while Canadian lobster weighing between 600 and 700g is priced at CNY 128 (USD 20.20, EUR 18.43) and sold by Lan Xue Foodstuffs (also known as “Blue Snow”) based in the port city of Ningbo. Canadian scallops meanwhile are offered by Shanghai Deshan Co at CNY 59 (USD 9.31, EUR 8.50) per 200g. Live French oysters sell at CNY 380 (USD 59.97, EUR 54.72)/500g.

Also cashing in on the Singles Day rush, well-known Chinese seafood firm Ocean Family (Da Yang Shi Jia) is selling Argentinean red shrimp on Tmall and another popular food-focused website, Yihaodian.com, at CNY 178 (USD 28.09, EUR 25.63) per 2kg box.

Tmall has also gone to much effort with professional-looking photos of the seafood source – for instance there are photos accompanying an offering of Chilean king crab for CNY 243 (USD 38.35, EUR 34.99) for 1,400g which show the fishing crews and port handling facilities as well as the dispatch facilities for China-bound crabs.

While individual companies operates their own stores on Tmall the portal itself also appears to be sourcing and selling seafood directly on its website, with Chinese express company SF Express handling the deliveries.

Meanwhile “silver cod” or sable fish continues to be promoted by numerous distributors as a health food. Nan Ji Xiong Seafood is one of several firms selling sable steaks, priced at CNY 168 (USD 26.51, EUR 24.19)/500g), one of several which is listed as being from France. Also selling sable steaks from France: Shenzhen Yue Sheng Commercial Trading Corp, which also provides would be buyers with an online guide to distinguishing “real” from “fake” sable. Both Nan Ji Xiong and Shenzhen Yue Sheng stress the health values of the cod for babies and for the elderly.

There appears to be clear mislabeling in the trade, with one firm listing sable as French while the customs certifications posted on its Tmall site (it’s common for vendors to post these documents as proof of the origins of their imported food products) list the company from which the product is sources as “Frigorifico Las Piedras” – a Uruguayan beef processing firm with major sales in China. It’s not clear if the paperwork has been mixed up if Frigorifico Las Piedras has a separate cod company: there was no reply from the company selling on Tmall. China’s recently introduced Advertising Law had promised to tightly regulate online advertising and product descriptions.

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