March 17, 2021

Growing Interest in Northeast US Seafood in the Hong Kong Market

By: Sarah Larson


Although 2020 was a challenging year, Food Export–Northeast’s Hong Kong In-Market Representative team was able to host eleven successful foodservice and retail promotions featuring Northeast US seafood products. The promotions resulted in over $825,000 (USD) in actual Northeast US seafood sales. These promotions included:

  • Online retail promotions with virtual sales platforms including CrazyBird, Call 4 Fresh, Worldwide and Aussie Meat, and Annie Food;
  • Various in-store retail promotions for Jonah Crab, American Lobster, and sea scallops with stores like CookCook Land, Chuppa Superfoods, YATA Supermarket, and City Super;
  • Restaurant menu promotions for American lobster, sea scallops, and Jonah Crab with The Captain's House, Mr. Crab Restaurants, and The American Club;
  • A seafood social media campaign in Hong Kong linked to the Annie Food promotion where local chefs were asked to provide two recipes for American lobster, sea scallops, and Jonah crab;
  • And the US Food Showcase, organized by the US Department of Agriculture/Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Office in Hong Kong, that featured sea scallops and American lobster, and was hosted via Zoom 

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Hong Kong Team Shifts to Make Seafood Promotions Successful During the Pandemic 

We checked in with Food Export–Northeast’s Hong Kong In-Market Representative team, SMH International, to learn about how they shifted and adapted to create and deliver these promotions for Northeast US seafood products over the last year. Here’s what SMH’s Roger Zhang had to say:

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Q: What were your initial goals for 2020 and how did they change once the COVID lockdown started?

A:
2020 was a unique year for all of us. The initial goals for Northeast US seafood in the Hong Kong market focused on maintaining relationships with existing buyers while expanding the network to include new buyers. Additionally, efforts concentrated on increasing awareness of Northeast US seafood with consumers to drive sales.

While we worked with multiple hotels and restaurants to conduct Seafood promotions prior to the pandemic, once the pandemic started, promotional opportunities initially decreased, impacting overall seafood sales. One bright spot in the market was the growth of e-commerce, which saw a dramatic sales spike in Hong Kong. For example, HKTVmall, the biggest online platform in Hong Kong earned profits of HK$109 million (equivalent to over $140 million USD) in the first half of 2020, after six years’ loss in a row. HKTV said 813,000 customers shopped online, a year-over-year increase of 43.6%. This model presented new opportunities for us as a market.

With Hong Kong residents moving to online shopping due to the pandemic, businesses in the region widely adopted the online-to-offline model (O2O) to meet significant online demand and entice shoppers back into stores. With this shift in Hong Kong business strategy, Northeast US Seafood conducted more O2O activities in 2020 in Hong Kong (e.g., the Call 4 Fresh and Crazy Bird promotions) than we had in the past to accommodate this new trend and take advantage of the opportunity to reach Hong Kong consumers. Overall, we had to adjust our goals while achieving success in different ways.

Q: How did you pivot to make these seafood promotions happen during the pandemic and what made these promotions successful?

A:
 With hotel business at a standstill, we made a greater effort to identify restaurants for Northeast US Seafood menu promotions and connected numerous traders and restaurants to encourage seafood product sales. For example, we worked with Mr. Crab and American Club restaurants to purchase Jonah crab and introduce a menu promotion to market the item to the industry and diners. Establishing and maintaining the close relationship with traders has been an important part of the overall Northeast US seafood marketing strategy in Hong Kong.

Q: What are your recommendations to suppliers looking to grow in the Hong Kong market?

A: 
With its ideal location, zero-tariff policy, and high consumer consumption, Hong Kong is a great market for Northeast US seafood product sales. As the market recovers from the virus, reconnecting with local buyers is an important task for US suppliers to add to their list to expand their sales network and gain greater market share.

A specific area we recommend growing business opportunities in is the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (a.k.a. Greater Bay Area or GBA). GBA, which consists of nine cities and two special administrative regions in South China, is the best entry point for the Hong Kong market. GBA presents a huge opportunity for Northeast US seafood suppliers.

Q: Do you see any trends emerging for 2021 in the Hong Kong market for seafood?

A: In 2021, the strong momentum of online platform growth will continue to lead the charge, and demand for imported seafood from consumers is estimated to rebound after a year of less importing/exporting due to COVID-19. As the region recovers from the pandemic and the government lifts travel restrictions, Hong Kong tourism is likely to see a significant increase.

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Learn more about Food Export–Northeast’s work across the globe that supports Northeast US seafood suppliers by visiting our website.


 About Food Export USA - Northeast 

With its extensive programs and educational offerings, Food Export USA–Northeast (Food Export–Northeast) is recognized as the preeminent expert and cost-effective resource for Northeast seafood and agricultural suppliers looking to sell their products overseas. Founded in 1973, Food Export–Northeast is a non-profit organization that works collaboratively with its 10 member states’ agricultural promotion agencies from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, to facilitate trade between suppliers and worldwide importers and to promote the export of food, agricultural and seafood products from those states. Since its founding, the organization has helped Northeast seafood suppliers gain access to a broad range of export markets, supported overseas in-market educational and promotional programs and offers emerging suppliers access to funds to help grow their export business. The organization is funded through the Market Access Program (MAP), administered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Learn more about us and what we do for the Northeast seafood industry here.  Contact us.