China, with its 640 M internet users, has been a huge market for ecommerce in the past few years. At Alibaba and JD.com, the two largest ecommerce sites in the country, the focus of the supplies have mainly been electronic gadgets and clothes. However, according to the Financial Times, things are changing. In the last year and especially in the last couple of weeks there has been a massive increase in the sales of fresh produce from around the world.
Many consumers around China are finding it difficult to trust local food producers. The suspicion of hidden food additives and harmful toxins in the locally grown produce has driven the online food market to an increase of 300 percent over the last few weeks. The Chinese population, especially women between the age of 28 and 35 in the densely populated areas on China’s east coast (the largest group of online food shoppers), prefer to buy their meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, even live seafood and more from places such as the US, Canada, New Zealand and Chile.
Supply chains have become more sophisticated and today it doesn’t take more than two days for most products to arrive at your doorstep. Some products are even cheaper to buy online than at local supermarkets. But it is not only these factors, the safety issue and the comfort that appeals to customers, but also the affordable luxury it is to buy foreign products that are not available in local supermarkets. Especially the young middle class shoppers tend to find the exotic international shopping appealing, while the slightly older generations care mostly about food safety for their children and parents. Foreign products equal safe and healthy products in the minds of a large part of China’s population, which is why the online food retail industry is expected to continue its growth as people become increasingly aware of food safety issues.