Takeout food services ... set me free from housework, which means I can focus on work.”
This winter, amid sub-zero temperatures, China’s food delivery market will turn red hot.
It would pull out all the stops, and open up a whole new bag of marketing tricks, to serve millions of convenience-craving, cold-averse, indoor-loving consumers such as Xiong Ling, 34, who runs her own healthcare business from her home at Wangjing area in northeast Beijing.
These days, nothing pleases Xiong as much as the ring of her door-bell. It rings three times a day. As if magically, every time she answers the bell, a fresh, hot, tasty meal materializes in a bag that is hung on her flat’s front door.
Consumers such as Xiong are dependent on app-based food delivery firms that now account for 10 percent of the catering industry’s annual sales, up from 7.4 percent last year.
By June-end, Ele.me, the market leader, had 34.02 million active users, followed by Meituan.com (29.89 million) and Baidu Waimai (17.48 million).
Food delivery firms’ rapid growth can be discerned from latest data, including estimates.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center’s China Internet Development Report, 295 million people used online food delivery services in the first half of this year.
By the time 2018 rings in, around 350 million consumers will have likely used such services, spending more than 200 billion yuan ($30.2 billion), higher than 160 billion yuan spent last year, which itself was up 33 percent from the 2015 level.
In terms of absolute numbers, food and beverages will have been delivered more than 350 million times this year, up from 256 million times last year, according to the China Cuisine Association or CCA.
Jiang Junxian, director of the CCA, attributed the rapid growth of the food delivery market to the advent of technology: reliable telecom infrastructure, nifty smartphones, imaginative apps, mobile payment tools and enhanced logistics capacity of delivery firms.
Chinese consumers’ growing impatience with time-consuming restaurant visits, and their reluctance to cook at home due to work pressures, are also key factors.
For instance, Xiong’s saviors are “riders”, or deliverymen, the backbone of food delivery services. “Takeout food services have set me free from housework, which means I can focus on work,” she said. “You can even have a cup of coffee and ice cream delivered by the riders to your home.”
Li, a deliveryman for DadaJD Daojia, a food delivery unit of online marketplace JD.com, said the business is all about speed. “You’ve to make sure the food is warm (or does not melt) when it reaches the customer.”
He receives 5 yuan per delivery in addition to a basic an owner of a healthcare business in Beijing
Unsurprisingly, the frenetic growth of the food delivery segment has not been without incidents and concerns.
For instance, a Meitian-Dianping deliveryman in Qingyuan city, Guangdong province, was said to have not only tampered with a customer’s food parcel on Oct 21 but made it disgusting and unacceptable, prompting the firm to tender an unreserved apology.
It said it would follow it up with additional measures like introducing sealed food parcels in at least 30 cities by this year-end.
That apart, the segment has come under fire from green organizations for using synthetic packaging materials excessively, thus posing an environmental threat to the society.
Overspeeding riders who pose problems to pedestrians and motorists alike are also a cause for concern.
The industry’s leading lights are said to be seized of these challenges and brainstorming to come up with an apt response to each one of them.
Amid all this, several interesting insights have been plucked from cold market data.