Take­out food ser­vices ... set me free from house­work, which means I can focus on work.”

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 13 Business -

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.

Xiong Ling,

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