Business / Industries

Internet shoppers get a taste for fresh food

By Meng Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-12 10:44

Internet shoppers get a taste for fresh food

A shopper in Beijing looks at a promotional stand for Womai, a leading online food and grocery platform owned by the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp. [Phoro/China Daily]

From Ailao Mountain oranges to Canadian cod, the online grocery market is growing rapidly and is now worth up to $4.09 billion

It takes three and a half hours to fly from Shanghai to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. From there, it is another five-hour drive over bumpy mountain roads to reach the Chu Orange Manor in Ailao Mountain.

Here, you will find Chu Shijian, an 88-year-old entrepreneur who has been cultivating juicy oranges since 2002 and now uses e-commerce to sell his produce.

In just a day, he can ship fruit from his mountain-top home to online customers in downtown Shanghai.

"That's the magic of e-commerce," Chu, who grows 10,000 tons of oranges a year, said.

"Without it, my products would hardly travel out of Yunnan. It would not be a brand that is so well-known by consumers around China," he added with a smile.

Last month, he rolled out his online flagship store, Chu's New Collection Fruit Shop, on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's shopping platform Tmall Fresh. Already it has been a huge success.

"About 130 tons of oranges were sold in the first six hours of the launch," Chu said. "I know my oranges are very good, but that was still beyond my expectations."

Literally, e-commerce is changing the face of the retail business as small to medium-sized companies jostle with mega corporations for a larger slice of China's consumer market. The latest battleground is the grocery sector, which is a multibillion-dollar industry.

In October, search engine giant Baidu Inc officially entered the online grocery arena by investing $20 million in Womai, a food website owned by China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp.

It joined the other two big Internet players, Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd, in a sector that has been described as the "last blue ocean" in cyber shopping.

Compared to the online market for clothing and home appliances, the grocery business is still in its infancy. But that is changing fast.

A survey released in the summer by Penguin Intelligence showed that about 24.5 percent of the 9,645 online shoppers polled had tried an Internet grocery service.

"Nearly half of those interviewed also said they were interested in trying it out in the future," Penguin Intelligence, a Web-focused research institute affiliated to Tencent, reported.

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