Fresh food online buying booms in China

The explosive growth of the fresh food e-commerce sector in the first half of the year has played an important role in promoting sales of agricultural products and bringing convenience to people’s daily lives amid COVID-19, resulting in many Chinese people gradually developing the new habit of “shopping online for fresh food”.

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Li Qi, who works for an Internet company in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, is so busy with work that he has no time to go to the supermarket. He chooses to buy rice noodles, vegetables, meat and eggs and other ingredients on JD.com, ele.me and other e-commerce platforms.

Usually, he will place an advance order when he gets off work in the evening. 40 minutes later, the delivery will reach him when he arrives at home.

“I usually spend more than 30 yuan (about $4.50) on each purchase once, which is enough to last me two days, and it’s cheaper than ordering takeout every day. I’m tired after a day’s work. This is very convenient. I just want to lie in bed for a while and don’t want to bother to go out to the supermarket again,” Li explained.

A wide variety of food and high efficiency are the primary considerations for many consumers who choose to do their shopping on fresh food e-commerce platforms.

Every time Xiong Hui, a resident of southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, wants to improve her meal, she will choose to buy some bread, cakes and vegetables on fresh food e-commerce platforms.

“The reason why I choose to buy fresh food online is mainly because the small supermarkets nearby can’t meet my needs, as there’s not enough variety. This was especially true after the epidemic, when the supply in the supermarket was even more limited,” Xiong said.

Xiong added that online shopping for fresh food has become a “strict demand” for her, but she will also go to the supermarket with friends and often look out for promotional activities or discounts.

The fresh food e-commerce research report released by iResearch Consulting Group, a China-based organization focusing on in-depth research in China’s internet industry, shows that users have become used to buying fresh food online.

Of these users, the proportion who buy fresh food online two or three times a week has increased from 25.7 percent in January and February this year to 30.1 percent after March. The report predicts that the transaction size of the fresh e-commerce market will increase significantly and is expected to exceed 800 billion yuan in 2023.

In 2019, the total volume of retail sales of fresh food exceeded 2 trillion yuan in China, according to an official with the ministry of commerce.