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Sales of imported lobsters turn red-hot online

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-22 06:23

Seafood-savvy Chinese have shown an increasing appetite for imported lobster, especially through e-commerce purchases, thanks to the growth of middle-class consumers and their pursuit of high-quality lifestyles.

Last year, China imported 14 million pounds of lobster worth $108 million from the United States, a record for value as well as volume, according to The Associated Press.

"We have opened new markets in Asia, which is booming. Everything is clicking now," Dave Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, was quoted by AP as saying.

One of the key factors driving the growth of lobster sales in China is the rapid growth of the nation's middle class, said Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Co in Arundel, Maine.

"American lobsters tend to be cheaper in China than other live seafood, such as spiny lobsters and geoduck clams. It's kind of an affordable luxury," she told AP.

Chinese consumers are fond of lobsters and other kinds of shellfish, and those who live inland particularly prefer fresh seafood products, according to a report jointly released by JD.com, one of China's largest e-commerce websites, and the 21st Century Institute of Economy.

JD.com said a majority of consumers are willing to buy fresh products online, and fruits and seafood products are among the most popular categories. Consumers born in the 1970s and 1980s serve as the backbone of online seafood sales, it said.

On JD.com, fresh Boston lobsters weighing 700 to 800 grams sell for 318 yuan ($46). This year, online sales of fresh food products, such as fruits, vegetables and seafood, are expected to reach 153.8 billion yuan in China, a year-on-year growth of about 70 percent, according to data from market research firm iResearch Consulting Group.

Although purchasing lobsters online is highly popular, the sales at some supermarkets in Beijing have seemed lukewarm, with many consumers apparently considering lobster difficult to cook.

At a supermarket in Chaoyang district in Beijing, live US lobsters carry a price tag of 198 yuan per 500 grams; king crabs from Australia sell at the same price.

"Our sales of imported lobsters and seafood products are not very good now," said a salesman at the supermarket who did not give his name.

"For the time being, not many people are buying them, perhaps because they think they are expensive and hard to cook. But when it comes to holidays, we sell more lobsters."

Rather than buying lobsters at supermarkets, some consumers prefer to eat them in restaurants.

"In some restaurants, the price is almost the same, and I can save much time and trouble," said a consumer surnamed Wang.

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