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Vietnamese firm upbeat on Asia's surimi market

Product innovation drives sales in tropical fish-dominated region, exec tells IntraFish.

Vietnam-based Future Seafood Group is upbeat on the prospects for the Southeast Asian surimi market after its founder shifted his focus from Europe.

Pascal Guenneugues, an expert on the French market, relocated to Vietnam 18 months ago, amid strong demand for surimi products, particularly in Thailand and China.

Guenneugues established his business three years ago and now employs some 300 people. He owns one surimi factory and is a partner in another as well as running the Surimi Tech processing machinery company, a trading operation and a consultancy.

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Unlike Europe, especially France, where the market has become saturated, Guenneugues sees plenty of room for growth led by a drive for new product innovation in Southeast Asia.

"You see a lot of innovation especially in countries like Thailand," he said. "There is a large diversity of products, also flavored products and demand is high for fish cakes, fish balls, dried surimi products and snacks."

Guenneugues still does some business in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe. But the European surimi sector, in France especially, has been hit by declining sales and higher raw material prices.

"The trend to switch from tropical fish to pollock and whiting basically killed the business for tropical surimi in Europe," he said.

Producers such as Future Seafood focus their supply of ingredients on tropical fish that may include itoyori, eso, flying fish, sea bream and ribbon fish.

These may come from countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Surimi prices in Asia have been rising not only because of good demand but also as Thailand and Indonesia enforce strict fishing regulations and apply conservation measures to protect resources, while Vietnamese and Chinese fishing vessels have reduced access to foreign fishing grounds.

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