SEAFOODNEWS.COM [English.Eastday] August 23, 2018

Hema Fresh, Alibaba Group’s online-to-offline food chain, signed an agreement on Tuesday with the Norwegian Seafood Council to increase salmon imports from the country.

Chinese consumption of salmon is expected to reach 240,000 tons by 2025, making China one of the top salmon export markets for the Nordic nation, executives from Hema and the agency said during a signing ceremony in Shanghai.

“Norwegian Seafood Council and Hema share the common goal of providing quality seafood to the consumers. We are very pleased to form this partnership and look forward to future cooperation,” said Victoria Braathen, the council’s director for the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.

Under the direct procurement agreement, all Atlantic salmon from Norway are transported by air to China within 72 hours, during which they have adequate protection and refrigerant to maintain a refrigerator environment, or between 0 to 4 degrees, said Huang Ling, global direct procurement director for fresh produce at Hema.

Technologies allow shipments to be tracked and logged upon arrival. The fish are then pre-processed and packaged in China before going on shelves.

The move is the latest demonstration of Hema’s buyer model, which was publicly announced by CEO Hou Yi two weeks ago, where professional procurers are responsible for sourcing and hand-picking the right goods to sell. The company now owns 40 stock keeping units under its indigenous seafood program called Difresco.

The deal also comes as it became known authorities in China are allowing some rainbow trout to be labeled as salmon, which prompted a public outcry and upset the country’s sushi lovers.