Researchers see China as growing market for Alaska salmon

June 5, 2017

people standing in food store Graduate students interview shoppers in a Chinese supermarket.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Anchorage and Purdue University see China as a promising market for Alaska salmon. They interviewed more than 1,000 consumers in major China cities and found that seafood from pristine Alaska waters harvested in a sustainable and highly regulated fishery is appealing to residents, many of whom are entering the country’s growing middle class and gaining disposable income.

A new Alaska Sea Grant publication summarizes the results—Consumer Preference and Market Potential for Alaska Salmon in China: Preliminary Analysis. The report is authored by Angie Zheng, Holly Weng, Quentin Fong and Yonggang Lu. Fong is Alaska Sea Grant’s Kodiak-based seafood marketing specialist and is a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor.

The publication is geared toward fishermen, seafood producers and marketers interested in selling Alaska salmon in China. Researchers asked Chinese consumers about wild or farmed salmon, Alaska as the place of production, use of product forms (head, whole round, frame, etc.), methods of preparation and willingness to purchase.

Respondents gave a high ranking to characteristics associated with Alaska salmon—wild caught, sustainably caught and color—indicating the high potential for increasing sales of Alaska salmon in China.

China is the largest single export market for the state of Alaska. Seafood, worth $784 million in 2014, makes up the greatest percentage of those exports with salmon at about $290 million.

salmon filet, tail and head displayed in a restaurant case Salmon on display in a seafood restaurant in China.

The authors advise that if Alaskans want to sell salmon directly to Chinese consumers, they should focus on boneless fillets, steaks and heads. Marketers should also educate purchasers about preparation methods, the different salmon species and meat colors, and the sustainable nature of the harvest. The researchers recommend highlighting the advantage of wild-caught salmon and getting a “green” label showing reduced environmental impact of the product. The Chinese are likely willing to pay price premiums for Alaska salmon as consumers do in the United States, the researchers found.

The illustrated, 16-page electronic publication is available as a free download at Alaska Sea Grant.

— By Sue Keller

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.