Going global: China’s Evergreen Food brings ‘complicated’ seafood dishes to international convenience channels

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Evergreen Food's ready-to-cook Squirrel Snapper. ©Evergreen Food
Evergreen Food's ready-to-cook Squirrel Snapper. ©Evergreen Food

Related tags China Seafood convenience

China-based Evergreen Food has developed a huge portfolio of convenience-focused ready-to-use seafood products in a bid to expedite exports of local seafood dishes that would usually be too complicated to prepare without expertise.

Evergreen Food has longstanding experience of over three decades in the seafood sector, owning eight of its own aquaculture farms covering shrimp to tilapia, and working with well-known specialty grilled fish restaurants such as TANYU.

The firm is now looking to make a name for itself among international consumers by moving from its behind-the-scenes partnerships to creating retail seafood products that are either ready-to-cook (RTC), ready-to-eat (RTE) or ready-to-heat (RTH).

“Chinese cuisine such as grilled fish has become increasingly popular outside of China, including in markets such as Singapore where such specialty restaurants have seen a very rapid pace of growth,”​ Evergreen Food International Trade Centre Sales Director Coco Zheng told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“The thing is that most of these dishes can only be enjoyed out-of-home, in restaurants, due to the expertise needed to cook these, which of course means that exporting these as such is also made that much more difficult.

“This is why we have crafted a portfolio of seafood-based products which are very traditional Chinese dishes that would usually need chef-level abilities to produce and made these into convenient formats such that they have become much more accessible to both the everyday consumer as well as to overseas markets out of China.

“There are of course strong benefits of doing this in terms of exporting and reaching more markets, and this is why we have now been exporting much more to places in South East Asia and the Pacific.”

In addition to the RTH grilled fish which comes in an aluminium pan that can just have the accompanying sauces and vegetables added to it, then popped into the oven for heating up, Evergreen has also launched other interesting traditional products such as the Squirrel Snapper (松鼠鲷鱼) and the Pineapple Pomfret (菠萝咕噜金鲳鱼), both of which are sweet and sour dish.

“Sweet and sour dishes are the most versatile as these can apply for all consumer age groups from young to old,”​ she added.

“To add to the convenience of these products, we generally have also removed the bones from the fish in order to shorten preparation time even further.

“All of this comes back to our target of really pushing local Chinese cuisine further out to international markets – but we are also looking at Chinese consumers that have moved overseas but are still in keeping with local traditions.

“For example, many such consumers have a culture of eating traditional Chinese dishes such as these at the end of the year, every 31st​ of December – and this can make things so much easier and more accessible for them.

“Even more importantly, because we use mainly local Chinese ingredients from the fish to the pineapple to the spices and so on, the taste and flavour will remain similar to what they have in China and can bring them that extra taste of home.”

With over 200 SKUs created both for domestic and international markets, Evergreen Food nets some CNY2.2bn (US$309.7mn) in sales, 30% of which is from international trade.

Seafood safety

Although seafood is generally well-recognised as one of the healthiest animal proteins around, its complicated supply chain has raised more than a few eyebrows globally in terms of both sustainability and food safety, hence Evergreen has already taken steps to avert these complications.

“We are well aware of the complications of the food safety chain when it comes to seafood, and have already made sure to get all the necessary certificates in place to guarantee both safety and quality,”​ she said.

“It is also because we have our own fish farms that we have good control of the whole supply chain from the feed to the processing to the R&D to the sales – everything is internal.

“Fish is generally accepted to be a healthier protein especially due to Omega-3 and DHA content that needs to come from seafood, so with these concerns out of the way as well as the added convenience we certainly believe that the prospects for the seafood industry are very bright.”

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