New shopping options make cabbage queues a thing of the past

Many residents in northern China have slowly abandoned a long-held tradition of stocking up on cabbage before the freezing winter season, because the widely used vegetable is no longer as hard to come by during the winter as it used to be, and there is a growing variety of vegetables to choose from.

Such a change in cabbage consumption is a small aspect of a broad upgrade and transformation process in Chinese consumers’ habits, through which more and more attention is being paid to quality and health benefits, and the trend could benefit both domestic and overseas farmers, an expert pointed out on Tuesday.

It used to be normal to see long queues of people waiting to buy large amounts of cabbage and onions for their entire winter supply, but in recent years this has become rare in cities like Beijing, where people are now only a short trip or even a click away from fresh vegetables in nearby supermarkets or online shopping platforms.

“My family prefers fresh vegetables, so I don’t store much cabbage like we used to do years ago,” a consumer at a Jingkelong supermarket in Beijing, who only gave his surname as Lü, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Another consumer said she only buys one or two cabbages each time, usually from the supermarket, where a variety of cabbages, with prices ranging from 1.18 yuan ($0.17) to 3.78 yuan per kilogram, filled the shelves.

Another consumer at the supermarket pointed out that it’s hard to find enough space for storing large amounts of cabbage, and modern shopping conditions mean it’s no longer necessary. “There is not much space in my kitchen and balcony to store any vegetables, and I can go shopping every day,” said the consumer, who was in his late 50s.

Many consumers don’t even need to make a trip to the shops to buy their vegetables.

“I haven’t been to a supermarket for weeks now and I don’t stock up on anything. If I decide to cook tonight, I can put an order online for what I need about an hour ahead and I will be good to go,” a Beijing resident surnamed Lin, who is in his late 20s, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The greater variety of produce is another factor. “I have more options besides cabbage and potatoes,” said a consumer at a Walmart store in Beijing.

Changing tastes

There is also a broader trend of changing tastes among Chinese consumers, driven partly by an increase in disposable income, according to Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant.

Ma told the Global Times on Tuesday that residents’ disposable income levels determine the demand for green and organic food and vegetables.

“The more disposable income residents have, the greater their demand for green and organic food and vegetables produced by reputable brands,” Ma said. “People will pay more attention to the quality instead of prices.”

Ma said the trend will develop further and innovations such as the Internet of Things will be applied to track vegetables from farms to markets to ensure quality.

“If all food and vegetables are traceable by scanning a QR code, the food products will be more secure,” Ma said, noting that such a trend will require supply-side reform in the domestic agricultural sector to meet the new demand.

Source: Global Times

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