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Alaska seafood steals the show

By Yu Wei in San Francisco | China Daily USA | Updated: 2013-11-13 12:36

Fresh and wild Alaskan-caught seafood was back on's menu from Nov 11-17 to join in on China's Singles' Day celebration.

Within two days, the site was sold out of Alaskan King crab. More than 1,550 flounder, 1,400 halibut, and 970 black cod had been "pre-ordered".

Alaskan seafood's Singles' Day promotion was a follow-up to a nine-day pre-sale campaign on in October conducted by the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI)

Chinese consumers pre-ordered 50 tons of high-end Alaskan seafood during the promotion, which ran from Oct 14 to 25. In all, 18 varieties of seafood were offered to Chinese consumers, with top sellers being king crab, black cod, and halibut, according to Alibaba,'s e-commerce parent company.

The 99 king crabs offered sold out in three hours and more than 10 tons of black cod made their way from Alaska to China. Sales of the pre-sale campaign exceeded's expectations by 17 percent, Alibaba said.

"We believe the Tmall promotion provides great exposure for the Alaskan seafood brand among consumers," said Alexa Tonkovich, international program director at Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Although the final sales number of the Singles Day promotion won't be available until Nov 17, Tonkovich said the initial numbers she heard were outstanding and "our expectations were absolutely met".

"For ASMI, the sales numbers are important, but so is the exposure for the Alaskan seafood brand," she added.

In addition to prices that are three- to four-times cheaper than the same products sold in a Chinese supermarket, Alaskan seafood is also known for its quality.

"Alaskan seafood comes from a clean, pure source and is one of the best-managed wild fisheries in the world," Tonkovich said. "All Alaskan seafood is wild, natural, sustainable, nutritious and delicious."'s pre-sale program for American food was launched earlier this year in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture's branch in Shanghai. The initiative not only provides a channel for US companies to access China's largest business-to-consumer online shopping marketplace, it also lets US companies know exactly how much product to ship.

" and we have developed an excellent working relationship resulting in a win-win situation," said Keith Schneller, director of the USDA Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai.

"The pre-sale model allows our companies to test the China market and allows consumers across China the opportunity to try a wide variety of high quality American food and beverage products.It also gives consumers the confidence that the products are authentic and also attracts them to Tmall's web space," Schneller said.

Since January, several American food and beverage products have been promoted by the trade office on, including fresh northwest cherries and frozen pork.Schneller said there are plans to launch northwest pears and Sunkist citrus products in the near future.

The most popular US products so far were the Alaskan king crabs that sold out in less than three hours in October, Schneller said.

"These are wonderful, wild-caught products at a reasonable, but rather high sales price of 999 yuan ($164) each," he said. "There may be challenges in the future having enough of these types of products in stock just to meet the demand."

"We are also impressed with the rapid development of the local delivery logistics in recent months as more and more on-line companies are shipping fresh/frozen products directly to consumers.This tendency is resulting in rapid improvements to China's cold chain system," he added.

Schneller said his office in Shanghai has been receiving more and more inquiries from US companies after the promotions, which provide a platform for US companies to sell directly to Chinese consumers.

"This type of market access did not exist just a few years ago," he said. "I believe China is leap frogging ahead of most countries in the world

"We hope to work with Tmall in the future to create a virtual, American pavilion inside Tmall which will allow us to create a year-round schedule of market promotions featuring various seasonal and holiday products and themes," Schneller said. "I think this will be a revolutionary new promotion tool for our office and for our US producer association partners."

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