We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to browse this site or by choosing to close this message, you give consent for cookies to be used. For more details please read our Cookie Policy.

How e-commerce is changing Chinese seafood retail habits

Online retail is changing the way people buy consumer goods, nowhere more so than China. E-commerce is worth $600 billion in the nation, claiming the world’s top spot for online shopping. With sales expected to grow 20% year-on-year until 2020, the market potential is huge – not least for seafood.

The effects of e-commerce on the Chinese seafood market

Due to its looser online licensing regulations, and quicker customer procedures, China’s online retail sector is fuelling a change in consumer habits. The ability to click a link, place an order, and receive goods quickly, is of great interest to Chinese consumers, leading to higher sales of fish and seafood. In fact, China’s online seafood sales grew 300% in 2016 and are expected to repeat this monumental growth in 2017.

Why the rise in Chinese online seafood transactions? It is part convenience, part health and safety. A 2016 survey of Chinese shoppers by domestic fresh food suppliers Yiguo revealed traditional retail outlets are seeing their popularity shrink.

Consumers commented on air pollution and the unsanitary conditions of bricks-and-mortar stores. Others pointed out they are too busy to head to supermarkets to pick up fresh produce, including seafood. 

E-commerce nominally allows Chinese shoppers the ability to get fresh seafood, in some cases luxurious products unavailable in supermarkets or on in-land China, at a time to suit them. 

Popular products include Alaskan black cod, Japanese lobster and New Zealand oysters. Online sales of salmon, despite an 80/20 split between commercial and private consumption, have grown 44% annually since 2015, for example. Flounder and halibut are also key export products.

Major online platforms makes selling seafood easier in China

In a bid to get top quality fish to shoppers in a fresh, ready-to-eat condition, many major Chinese online retailers have put together e-commerce platforms for suppliers to enjoy. This has opened up cross-border channels for foreign producers to exploit.

Alibaba, the b2b giants, control 56.4% of online retail sales through its Tmall platform. It runs Mr Fresh, a grocery platform, which is its main seafood sales portal. Mr Fresh is a B2C website, but Alibaba invested $15 million in developing b2b site GFresh from which it will deal directly with suppliers. Ewfresh, a website set up by dedicated seafood importers Wang Ju Xian, is another example of a Chinese firm responding to the population’s growing demand for e-commerce services.

These platforms flag the potential of Chinese cross-border e-commerce. For a commission, they will handle customs, sales, logistics and customer service. Essentially, accessing China’s huge grocery market can be a smoother process with such platforms – meaning greater export volumes can be moved to China. 

Brands from across the globe are entering China’s online seafood retail sector. Just taking a glance at Ewfresh’s product range reveals Canadian lobsters from Paturel, MacDuff Scottish crabs and Talley-brand mussels from New Zealand. Gfresh, in response to growing demand, is casting a further net for suppliers as of January 2017, demonstrating how foreign firms are the lifeblood of Chinese online groceries.

E-commerce logistics need development

Despite major operators, such as TMall, running their own cold-chain operations, e-commerce seafood deliveries are being constrained in China. Inefficiencies, delays and poor equipment unfortunately means stock turns up either in poor conditions or dead in the case of live products. At present, 23% of China's seafood sector is covered by cold chain service providers.

This does provide a further avenue for foreign firms to explore, when it comes to China’s online seafood retail market. As sales are expected to keep rising, until at least 2020, a demand for sophisticated cold storage and transport facilities. So not only can international companies supply the raw, finished or value-added seafood products, they can supply the equipment needed to keep the e-commerce seafood sector rolling.

Explore your options at World Seafood Shanghai (SIFSE) 

To see the high demand for frozen fish seafood for in China for yourself, you need to be attending World Seafood Shanghai (SIFSE). Since 2006, the show has been bringing together producers with domestic buyers, including major online retailers, importers, and the Chinese seafood figures who really count.

Do not miss out on putting your products in front of a captive, dedicated audience. Get in touch now to learn more about World Seafood Shanghai, or to book your stand at China’s leading fish and seafood exhibition.


Related Events

Event26 Aug


26-28 August, 2022


Get in Touch

Want news like this in your inbox?