HRI Market Spotlights: Singapore, Hong Kong & Australia

Gain timely HRI market insights from Food Export's in-market experts.

Food Export-Northeast has 19 In-Market Representatives (IMRs) on the ground across key exports markets for food exporters. These knowledgeable experts have valuable insights into their specific markets, especially when it comes to the hotel, restaurants, and institutional (HRI) food sector. We asked our Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australian IMRs the same two questions and here’s what they had to say about the opportunities for Northeast US seafood suppliers. 



Hong Kong – Roger Zhang, SMH International, China and Hong Kong In-Market Representative

Q1: Do you see any emerging trends for 2022 in Hong Kong for seafood (specifically in the HRI sector 
 e.g., consumer seafood consumption, how the sector will get consumers excited about new menu items and offerings, etc.)?

Hong Kong is known for its dining scene, full of diverse, quality foods, and residents will be eager to dine out now that policies in Hong Kong and the Mainland are being loosened and conditions are more favorable. At this time, the HRI sector is poised for a stronger recovery than the retail sector. Over the past few months, there has been strict oversight of COVID and frozen products, including seafood and meat. With restrictions beginning to relax, hotels will begin to use more frozen products versus their restaurant counterparts. The return to the Mainland, coupled with government stimulus plans, should help boost consumption and create an environment that will slowly welcome newer species/foods as more economic stability is achieved. 

As the HRI sector rebounds, there will be greater seafood consumption. During Q4 2021, restaurant receipts totaled over HKD $25 million and fell to just over HKD $15 million in Q1 2022, pointing to plenty of market recovery potential. At the same time, 94 new restaurant licenses were added for 2021, adding more vitality to the sector. 

Q2: What are your top three recommendations for Northeast US suppliers looking to grow in the Hong Kong market?

American lobster is a welcome product in the Hong Kong market and has strong demand, but it does carry a higher price. As conditions improve, and residents spend more time outside, there will be greater demand and Northeast US seafood suppliers should be active in the market now to entice more consumers and businesses. My recommendations are: 

  1. Increased communication with key market players should be at the top of every exporter’s list. Now is the time to connect as much as possible with Chinese importers and traders to raise product awareness and sourcing availability. 
  2. Better familiarize consumers with the safety and quality of Northeast seafood. Prepare guides with proper product storage, handling, and preparation information so Chinese consumers know how best to enjoy the product. If you don’t have time to create specific branded guides – share the seafood buyer’s toolkits Food Export-Northeast has created. 
  3. Digital marketing is another great way to establish more awareness for Northeast seafood because you can target consumers directly. The online world in China is vast, and one of the main platforms for reaching younger generations. Online articles, live streaming, and recipe introductions can be a great way to make an impression and provide essential product knowledge.  


Singapore – Thomas Wee, Lieu Marketing, Southeast Asia In-Market Representative

Q1: Do you see any emerging trends for 2022 in the Singapore market for seafood (specifically in the HRI sector – e.g., consumer seafood consumption, how the sector will get consumers excited about new menu items and offerings, etc.)?

With the lifting of pandemic restrictions and travel restarting, the HRI sector in the SE Asia region is rebounding fast and furious. Consumers are dining out with a vengeance, and restaurants are keen to tap into this demand with new menus. Preference for seafood in SE Asia has always been for fresh and live seafood. However, with the shortage of skilled and unskilled labor in the industry, restaurants are now open to using more frozen and chilled seafood that is filleted and semi-prepared. This will help them ease their labor crunch while offering good quality menu items to their customers. 

Q2: What are your top three recommendations for Northeast US suppliers looking to grow in the Singapore market?

  1. Importers are worried about supply delays and disruptions. Address this upfront with the importers.
  2. Rising prices and unfavorable exchange rates are impacting importers. Beware of existing customers looking to switch. Sharing some of their pain now will go a long way to cementing a long-term future relationship. 
  3. Retailers and importers are looking for new sources of products. Relook at your past potential buyers. They may be open now to buy from you.


Australia – John Arnold, CX Food, In-Market Representative 

Q1: Do you see any emerging trends for 2022 in the Australian market for seafood (specifically in the HRI sector – e.g., consumer seafood consumption, how the sector will get consumers excited about new menu items and offerings, etc.)?

Health, wellness, and the environment continue to be key purchasing factors for Australian consumers. Portion sizes are increasingly important as consumers want quality over quantity, and they expect packaging to be informative and environmentally responsible. The value of Australian consumer oriented and fish, and seafood imports totaled US$13.6 billion in 2021. The U.S. accounted for US$1.3 billion or 10 percent of Australia’s total food related imports. Despite the effects of COVID-19, Australia’s economy has been recovering relatively quickly, and GDP growth had already returned to pre-COVID levels. The market remains an excellent opportunity for U.S. exporters.

Seafood consumption in Australia has boomed since the pandemic. This in part has been attributed to increased availability of domestic product that was kept onshore due to international freight and logistics issues. The trend is continuing and with domestic and international market conditions improving there is potential opportunity for imported seafood products.     

In our food service market, fish burgers and lobster rolls are popular menu items, and sushi, sashimi and poke bowls are now mainstream. Salt and pepper calamari and traditional fish and chips are popular nationwide. In the home, seafood pasta and risotto dishes are popular meals to cook, as are Asian-style soups and curries using marinara-style seafood mixes.   

Q2: What are your top three recommendations for Northeast US suppliers looking to grow in the Australian market?

  1. Consumers are looking for high quality, responsibly sourced and sustainable seafood products so ensure this is communicated through branding and advertising.Australians do have a preference for locally sourced products so again quality and provenance are good attributes to include in customer and buyer communication.   
  2. There is a significant amount of competition with lower cost seafood imports from other countries so buyers will be looking for value for money.
  3. Potential exporters do need to be aware of Australian quality standards and biosecurity requirements. These also include requirements for traceability, labeling and fish names standards. These requirements can differ for each species. There are online tools to assist with requirements, and it is critical that you work with your importer to ensure these are met.

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About Food Export USANortheast 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.