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Irish Seafood Industry Tackles Japan and the United States

Date: 15/03/2018

This week, Bord Bia, Ireland’s state agency promoting its food and drink industry, is promoting Irish seafood across Japan and in Boston. Ireland currently exports over €640 million worth of seafood to more than 70 markets around the world. While the EU dominates Irish exports, Japan and the United States are both growing markets. With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, Bord Bia has coordinated timely retail store promotions in Japan and the presence of Irish seafood companies at a leading trade event in Boston.

Irish Pelagic Exporters Target Japanese Consumers in Asia’s Largest Retailer

Over three days, Bord Bia will be bringing the taste of Irish seafood to Japanese consumers through extensive promotions in 100 retail outlets across Japan. The industry’s exports to Japan, an increasingly important destination, reached €15 million last year. Bord Bia has partnered with Aeon, Asia’s largest retailer worth €6 billion, to promote a range of four Irish mackerel, horse mackerel and herring products as well as to raise awareness about the quality and sustainability credentials of Irish seafood. Bord Bia has arranged in-store tastings and developed a range of marketing material to help Japanese consumers identify the products’ origin.

The launch of the promotion was attended by the Irish Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Mr. Eoghan Murphy T.D. who said: We are delighted once again to work in close partnership with this important retail customer to help raise awareness about the fantastic seafood we have available from Ireland and the unrivalled sustainability credentials that govern our production of Irish seafood. Japanese retailers are increasing their commitments to certified sustainable production systems; for example, AEON is aiming to achieve a 20% portion of sustainable seafood products including Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified products in its total sales by 2020.  This plays to the strengths of our Irish pelagic exporters who have been very proactive in achieving and surpassing these expectations through Bord Bia`s Origin Green sustainability programme.”

The mackerel and herring on promotion are sourced and packed from Ireland and further processed and packed in Japan. The products are fully accredited by the MSC’s fisheries certification programme, guaranteeing the sustainability credentials of these products to the Japanese consumer. Irish pelagic exporters to Japan are also verified by Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme, the first national sustainability programme in the world. Origin Green clearly sets out Ireland’s ambition to become a world leader in the delivery of sustainable, high-quality food and drink. Independently verified at every stage, this programme sees Irish food companies develop a sustainability plan that defines clear targets in areas of sustainability, such as raw material sourcing, energy, waste, water and social sustainability. 

This retail promotion is a key element in Bord Bia’s trade development programme, focused on identifying new market opportunities for the Irish seafood sector. The Irish state agency intends to have a presence at Japan International Seafood and Technology Expo in Tokyo later this year demonstrating its ongoing commitment to this market. In addition, it is working to identify resources that can be based on the ground in Japan to work on behalf of the Irish seafood sector in identifying new sales opportunities and working closely with other customers in the market to raise the profile of Irish seafood.

Commenting on the growing importance of international markets for the Irish seafood sector, Karen Devereux, Bord Bia's Seafood Sector Manager said, “Ireland is a trading nation and the seafood industry is an important part of our export strategy. Japan is now our fourth largest market for the Irish pelagic sector. Our exports to Japan increased by 55% compared to 2016, with mackerel the key species exported growing in value by 85% between 2016 and 2017. In recognition of the potential for growth, Bord Bia intends to increase our physical presence here to support pelagic and other seafood categories.”

Business in Boston

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Bord Bia coordinated the presence of eight Irish seafood companies at Seafood Expo North America in Boston. (A list of participating companies is available in Notes to Editor) As North America’s largest seafood trade event, it welcomes more than 22,000 buyers over three days. Some 1,200 exhibitors from 40 countries displayed their wares ranging from fresh and frozen seafood to processing and packaging equipment. Bord Bia provided market expertise and logistical support to the participating Irish companies as well as arranged buyer meetings and attracted potential customers to the stand to learn about seafood in Ireland. Bord Bia used the event as a platform to invite leading US buyers to Bord Bia’s Marketplace International business development event in Dublin next month.

The US and Canada are growing markets for Irish seafood exports, worth €7 million, and are predominantly dominated by sales of fresh or smoked salmon and processed shellfish.