One brand sees mussel price lift

FIONA ROTHERHAM
Last updated 10:38 07/05/2012

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The price of New Zealand Greenshell mussels in the Chinese market has lifted 10 per cent in the past year a gain attributed to the industry working collaboratively under one brand.

Pure New Zealand Greenshell Mussels started business a year ago in China after being set up by Sanford (55 per cent), Sealord (15 per cent), Kono NZ (15 per cent) and NZ Greenshell (15 per cent) in the first joint marketing initiative among our mussel producers.

Chinese businesswoman Vivian Zhang helped establish the company while on secondment from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and is now Pure's Shanghai-based general manager.

"We started from zero so it has not been easy but we have managed to price up by 10 per cent on last year and the target now is to grow volume," Zhang said.

The early success of the collaboration, which is already a multimillion-dollar business, has drawn attention from other Kiwi industries keen to see if a similar model would work for them overseas, Zhang said.

More than a decade ago the Greenshell mussel industry made a fairly disastrous foray into the China market with some Chinese distributors ripping off consumers with counterfeit products that saw inferior locally grown mussels passed off as being the New Zealand product.

The cheap counterfeit Chinese mussels were even onsold under the New Zealand name into other high-value markets such as the United States.

The upshot was Greenshell mussel prices dived and Kiwi exporters ended up walking away from the China market.

It took eight years for their return and this time around they have picked up on an idea from Trade Minister Tim Groser that they would probably make more long-term profits from working collaboratively under one brand.

Pure has just one product – 1kg packs – sold directly into the food service sector but the joint venture company is developing a new product for consumers that will be sold in supermarkets before the end of the year.

New Zealand already had a strong reputation in China for food safety and quality and the seafood producers were benefiting from that, Zhang said.

She had put a lot of emphasis on targeting Western chefs already familiar with Greenshell mussels and helping educate Asian chefs looking for new flavours on how to cook them. Fairfax NZ

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- The Marlborough Express

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