‘All you can eat restaurants made sushi immensely popular’

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Sushi company Beij-Ching supplies Dutch retail chain Jumbo and horeca wholesaler Sligro with fresh sushi.

The company, located in the southern Dutch town of Udenhout, is owned by Chang Ching, his wife Marije and his business partner Paul Damen.

“We moved to Udenhout a year ago, because we needed more production space and storage,” says Ching.

“We also made some major changes to our organization, that worked out really well. Next year we want to focus more on traceability and quality.”

All you can eat restaurants
Sushi has become even more popular in the Netherlands, since the growing popularity of the ‘Asian all you can eat’ restaurants, says Ching.

“They have been very good for our business, because they have made sushi immensely popular. The only problem is the hygiene they sometimes lack. That causes a negative reputation that also affects the products. We are doing our utmost to produce as hygienic a product as possible, but the hygiene rules for horeca are far less strict.”

Of course there is a difference in quality between a good Japanese sushi bar and a Chinese owned ‘All you can eat’ restaurant.

“A sushi bar specializes in sushi, there you pay 2 euros per piece, and of course you can taste the difference. They can’t give it away, so they are priced accordingly….”

Salad with poached salmon
A new product for Beij-Ching are the Pokebowls, a mixed dish with rice, vegetables and salmon.

“It’s an affordable product, like the salad shaker we developed for retail and foodservice last year, with vegetables, sushi rice and a topping. Now it is one of our most popular products.”

Another new product, sushi sandwiches, will be launched in a week or two, he adds.

“The sushi sandwiches consist of two layers of sushi rice, with nori and spicy salmon. The nori is packed separately, to keep it crispy. The feedback from our customers on this product is very positive. We are also launching sushi wraps, suitable for the tosti grill. The wraps can be eaten hot or cold. This product will be sold at Jumbo and MT supermarkets. At the moment we are delivering to 100 Jumbo supermarkets, that will grow to 200.”

The Pokebowls are very popular with schoolchildren and high school pupils, says Ching. “I think that’s a very positive development. Two hundred grams of fish, rice and vegetables, the perfect healthy snack!” Smiling: “A lot healthier then a lot of other snacks you can think of….”

He also cooperates with Johma, a big Dutch salad producer. “Together we are developing a salad with poached salmon, called Yuzu. It will be developed custom-made, for us.”

Culinary trends
All these new ideas are the result of his own study of the market. “I just look well, for the right ideas and products. We get a lot of ideas from our Asian suppliers, who bring us new products to try, for inspiration. In Dusseldorf, Germany, for example, there’s a big Japanese community with lots of restaurants. I go there regularly to see and taste the trends!”

And not only from Japan, he adds. “We also get our inspiration from the culinary traditions of Thailand, Vietnam and China. Japanese food is the basis, but we form combinations with other Asian cuisines.”

Innovation is a continuous, ongoing process for Beij-Ching. “We keep expanding our Japan-Asian assortment for the supermarkets. We still have a lot of ideas for that channel!”

Growing up with sushi
Sushi is not a cheap product, says Ching. “Making sushi is a skill. It is a lot of work, and it has to be done by hand. You can never completely automate it.”

In spite of this, sales are still growing. “Sushi helps you respond to the modern consumer’s need for health and convenience.”

Also, more and more people eat fish, and the popularity of sushi has stimulated that, Ching adds. “Almost everybody likes sushi. Young people grow up with it. Actually, the real growth may not even have begun yet. In the US and Great Britain, you can see that sushi has taken its place, alongside other foods that are weekly on the menu. Sushi is here to stay.”

Read also: ‘Salmon is essential in our products’