Online ham sales piggyback on series' success

Updated: 2012-05-30 10:39

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

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A Bite of China has triggered an online-shopping craze for food.

Online ham sales piggyback on series' success

Guangdong-based Sina Weibo user Michelle (not her real name) says her husband felt ravenous after watching the series' first episode about Chinese ham and started searching for it on Taobao, the country's largest online shopping website.

"He's not usually a food lover. I've never seen him so passionate about food," Michelle commented.

Her husband is among the 5.84 million people who searched for snacks and regional specialties on Taobao after May 14, when the program was first broadcast. And 7.2 million deals were done under related categories within the next five days.

According to Taobao figures, there was a 71 percent increase in the sale of steam pots, and a 33.4 percent rise in stone/ceramic pots, as people showed an interest in traditional slow-cooking methods, like steaming and stewing - a highlight of the TV series.

There were 18 times more searches for ham, and ham deals increased by 80 percent, on Taobao. The previously little known Nuodeng ham quickly became a hot keyword.

The ham is made in mountainous regions in Yunnan province's Dali Bai autonomous prefecture. It is described in the documentary as a delicate combination of local well salt, fine pork and time.

Wang Yifang, who runs the online shop "Authentic Dali Taste" on Taobao, says she seldom received orders for Nuodeng ham in the past, but is now selling on average 30 a day.

"A Bite of China is good promotion, but it gives consumers high expectations," she says. "Our ham is good in quality, but it requires cooking skills, so I'm a little bit worried about the feedback."

In response, Wang says she's adding more information about how to cook the ham, such as soaking in rice-washed water before cooking.

Taobao has also gotten on the bandwagon by launching a promotion called A Bite of Taobao. On the first day, the package raked in 21.95 million yuan ($3.47 million) of sales and on Monday it was offering 8,300 products with the "A Bite of China" tag.

Other companies like Sina and Baidu are also catching the wave and launching related services.

"The country has never lacked food enthusiasts," online shop owner Wang says. "But I think it's better not to buy blindly."