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Eating at home: A growing challenge in China

By Liu Zhihua ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-07-14 08:42:48

Chinese people like to ask others: "Have you eaten?" as a way to say, "Hi!" Yet, for city dwellers leading fast-paced lives, eating has become a task to refill energy in a hurry or a networking opportunity, rather than something to enjoy at home.

A new report says 92.8 percent of Chinese respondents think eating at home constitutes quality time for families, and they want to eat at home, while 75 percent say they would feel rewarded and valued if they cooked at home. However, only 45.7 percent say they are able to eat at home as much as twice a week, according to the survey by Benlai.com, a leading online shopping platform for food ingredients in China.

The report, released on July 9, was based on a questionnaire the company conducted recently and its user-behavior analysis of about 4 million customers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

On Benlai.com, vegetables represent the largest share of purchases (32 percent), followed by rice, flour and oil (18.8 percent); fish and shellfish (17.5 percent); meat except poultry (14 percent); eggs (13.6 percent); and poultry (4 percent), the report says. Tomatoes are the favorite among the company's shoppers, followed by organic corn and then broccoli.

Eggs and tomatoes are the most popular foods among all choices, and people also tend to consume more seafood than before, as the buying of seafood versus meat is 48 percent to 52 percent, according to Li Xiaoduo, an executive with the company.

The data also demonstrate balanced nutrition choices among urban customers, as the overall buying ratio between vegetables and meats is about 7-to-3 in major cities, Li says.

But Beijing residents are more likely to choose meat over vegetables and fruits (35 percent) compared with Shanghai (28 percent), Guangzhou (24 percent) and Shenzhen (20 percent).

Also, contrary to the general impression that southerners love rice while the northerners prefer wheat flour, Shenzhen people buy more wheat flour online (30 percent of their staple purchases), compared with Beijingers (21 percent).

Shanghai is the city where people are most likely to eat at home, with about 71 percent saying they try their best to eat at home.

About 60 percent of respondents who say they want to cook are males, but only 40 percent of people who actually cook are men, the report says.

Generally, Friday is the peak day when people buy food ingredients from the website, the report shows.

To urge people to cook and dine at home as much as possible, Benlai.com has teamed up with a group of large companies in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, including Didi Kuaidi, Uber's rival in China, to suggest making July 17 the national "eat at home day" and provides discounts on the shopping platform until July 17.

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