SALMON sales to China by Marine Harvest Scotland have reached £25m after just two full years in the marketplace.
The news comes as the company takes part in the prestigious Coronation Festival in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, organised by the Royal Warrant Holders' Association to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen.
Direct sales to China opened up for the first time at the start of 2011 after an agreement was signed between the Scottish and Chinese Governments. And Scottish farmed salmon has proved very appealing to the Chinese market, with sales of £9m in the first year alone.
But as Georgina Wright, Head of Sales for Marine Harvest Scotland explained, doing their homework in advance was a vital part of their success: "Traditionally Chinese consumers have not placed a great deal of value on the origin of their fish and a Made in Scotland label was simply not going to be enough. We had to find another way of attracting them to our product as we knew once they had experienced it they would return and appreciate the consistent high quality of the product."
The solution was to develop a brand appropriate for the Chinese market. Market research showed consumers associated the words good, beauty and dignity with salmon. These have been combined into a recognisable Chinese character which is pronounced in the same way as "delicious" and holds connotations of freshness, health and beauty.
The new branding is used consistently across all marketing and communications and has proved enormously successfully, according to Georgina: "We are delighted with the response to our brand and the inroads we have made into this new market. To have reached the £25m milestone in such a short period is an outstanding achievement for our sales team and with a population of 1.35 billion we still have opportunity for growth."
Marine Harvest Scotland currently exports 40% of its total annual tonnage and this figure is likely to rise as the Chinese market grows. The company aims to increase production to 60,000 tonnes and has recently opened a number of new farms in the Minch with more in the planning process. A new hatchery at Lochailort near Fort William will grow 11 million smolt, fry and parr to supply four freshwater loch and 36 seawater loch salmon farms.