Spreading the love of lobster: Hong Kong expo traders say Asia wants more crustaceans

Suppliers are gearing up to supply a hungry and growing middle-class with more premium seafood options

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 8:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 10:55pm

With lobster being a favourite among Hong Kong and mainland consumers, many traders are looking to intensify exports to Asia where a growing middle-class is keen on the crustacean.

Seafood suppliers from Portugal, Russia and Poland were new additions at the seventh annual Seafood Expo Asia at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre yesterday.

Traders face growing competition in the Asia-Pacific fish market, which is projected to increase by 5 per cent annually between now and 2020, according to Global Industry Analysts forecasts. By 2030, the World Bank predicts Asia will account for 70 per cent of global fish consumption.

Analysts partly attribute the growing demand to a rapidly growing middle-class population, which could jump from 525 million to three billion over the next 20 years, according to Ernst & Young and SKOLKOVO.

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Seafood Expo Asia’s chief organiser and group vice president of Diversified Communications, Liz Plizga said Asian consumers were increasingly seeking premium, but affordable seafood.

“Improving living standards and rising incomes, coupled with an already well-established dining out culture, are driving market expansion as individuals become more conscious of taste and quality, particularly in China and South East Asia,” she said.

Tom Keegan, sales representative for Maine-based lobster company Cozy Harbour, said his business had seen a 50 per cent increase in lobster exports to Asia since 2013 – targeting markets in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Singapore.

“For mainland China, the love of lobster is key,” he said. “There is a trend for going for a whole lobster raw or a whole lobster cooked. It is not quite as mature a market as it will be over time.

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“Then in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, the market is a little more diverse. We see an interest in lobster tail and lobster meat...Asia is where the growth is for seafood.”

Antonio Fonseca, general manager of Portuguese seafood company Frutos do Mar, said his business was now looking towards Hong Kong after successfully exporting spiny lobster to China.

“The response in China has been good, so we decided to come here,” he said. “I see Hong Kong might be a good centre from which to trade with the mainland”.