"We expect that trends in salmon demand within retail will remain bullish" said Mr Silva in conversations with AQUA.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on Chilean salmon sales in international markets last year. The outlook for 2021 looks better with several markets recovering quickly, due to vaccination campaigns that have helped to reduce the number of infections.
AQUA analyzed this issue by talking with the Commercial Manager at Salmones Camanchaca, Daniel Silva, who described how the structure of local salmon markets has changed as a result of the pandemic and his expectations for the remainder of 2021.
In your opinion, how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the market configuration for Chilean salmon?
Although it is too early to speak of a final post-pandemic configuration, there are specific trends that have undoubtedly become a challenge for us that have strengthened our innovation and adaptation capabilities in the 30 countries where we operate.
Firstly, we have faced a considerable increase in retail demand due to the unprecedented increase in home consumption worldwide. Accordingly, there was a significant increase in e-commerce sales. In fact, this channel grew almost four times faster than before the pandemic. Undoubtedly, this segment is here to stay and we will be closely watching it.
Secondly, the restaurant sector is beginning to recover, so we can now expand our product mix. Most of our sales before the pandemic were focused on standard products, such as fresh fillets. However, a significant part of this sector is now migrating to products with higher added value, where frozen products have gained considerable ground.
Do you think the food service segment will recover to pre-pandemic levels? Absolutely. The food service sector is almost at pre-pandemic levels in the USA with a very good sales outlook, and these trends are beginning to appear in other markets such as Brazil, Mexico, Russia and some Asian countries. So current demand indicates that the outlook for 2022 is very good. Furthermore, prices are historically high for this time of year. Therefore, if sanitary discipline can be maintained, we should see other markets recover quickly as well.
Several analysts have stated that retail will continue to thrive and is likely to build even more potential. What is your opinion?
We expect that trends in salmon demand within retail will remain bullish. The challenge is to address this trend by meeting the requirements of new consumers, who are increasingly concerned about sustainability and nutritional contribution when selecting their basic food purchases. We have an advantage here, as over the past year consumers have acknowledged that salmon is a healthy, versatile, nutritious food, which is also an efficient source of protein when comparing the water used and emissions generated during its production.
Furthermore, we must not forget that retail is strongly supported by e-commerce, where the Z generation and millennials are driving digital shopping habits, especially using their smartphones, based on several very specific considerations and attributes. Therefore, we believe that our source of protein has a competitive future based on the impact, interests and demands of the issues that are relevant today to each market segment.
The USA is one of the principal markets for Chilean salmon. How would you describe this market? Is there room for further growth?
The USA is one of the most important markets for the Chilean industry and prices there have significantly recovered since May, even reaching historical highs, so we are enjoying good times. But we must take a close look at current inflationary pressures. We must continue to develop new options, preparations and packaging that can somehow delight consumers and provide them with value-added products that increase their satisfaction. Clearly, there is room for further growth.
How did the pandemic affect the Japanese market? What is the situation in this market today?
Camanchaca has representatives in Asia and Europe, as well as commercial offices in Santiago, Miami, Mexico and Tokyo. The Japanese market has been mainly affected by severe mobility restrictions, which still continue in the food service sector. Although retail sales have significantly offset these restrictions, sales in this market have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, we expect them to return to normal in the short term. Our sales expectations for the latter part of this year are optimistic and we expect them to continue developing in 2022.
Prices in Chinese markets fell steeply during the pandemic. What is the current situation facing Chilean salmon in this market?
Logistics is the main challenge in the Chinese market at the moment, rather than sales. We have faced several restrictions during the pandemic, flight limitations and a significant rise in air freight costs that have hindered our desired continuity. However, consumer confidence in foreign products has been recovering and salmon has returned to prominence in retail chains and e-commerce. We have now resumed sales to this market, and it will always be a strategic market for Camanchaca, so we will continue to invest there.
Finally, what is your outlook for the rest of 2021 and all of 2022?
There are still several challenges to address this year, but the current situation for supply and demand leads us to expect a positive year end for the industry, and we expect this situation to continue into 2022 as global supply and demand recovers.