Healthy food hits the road in big cities, mar­ket seen as ‘huge’

More de­liv­ery ser­vices cater­ing to the nu­tri­tion-con­scious are aris­ing in big cities

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIU ZHIHUA in Bei­jing li­uzhi­hua@chi­

You are what you eat. But if you are busy with work, away from home, and can­not pre­pare meals by your­self, how can you en­sure that you will eat healthy and stay healthy?

An al­ter­na­tive, at least for peo­ple in big cities such as Bei­jing and Shang­hai, has arisen re­cently — emerg­ing ser­vices to sell peo­ple food that is sup­posed to be healthy and is de­liv­ered to lo­ca­tions as needed.

Such ser­vices in Bei­jing in­clude Need Nu­tri­tion, 700 Kcal and Sweetie Salad, while Home Salad and Lemon Awake are among those in Shang­hai.

Ac­cord­ing to Wei Wei, founder and CEO of Need Nu­tri­tion, a startup founded this year, there are now at least a dozen such ser­vices in Bei­jing, although late last year there were only a few.

“The mar­ket is huge and has great po­ten­tial,” Wei said.

“Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly aware of the im­por­tance of healthy eat­ing, in­clud­ing those who are un­der fit­ness pro­grams, and that cre­ates huge de­mand for such take­out ser­vice.”

Wei said he founded the startup as soon as he no­ticed, from his own ex­pe­ri­ence and that of his friends, an un­met food de­liv­ery de­mand for reg­u­lar gym-go­ers who want to eat healthily but can­not cook for them­selves.

The com­pany launched a week-based lunch menu in April that was de­signed by nu­tri­tion­ists and se­nior chefs from ho­tels. The menu is up­dated reg­u­larly with sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents.

Although the ser­vice has a loyal fol­low­ing of just a few hun­dred peo­ple, its client base is grow­ing quickly and steadily with­out any mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­ity, re­ly­ing mainly on word of mouth, Wei said.

About 40 per­cent of first­timers even­tu­ally be­come reg­u­lar clients, he added. Many of the on­line-tooffl ser­vices are avail­able through WeChat and apps.

Sweetie Salad, a pioneer in the field, claims to have more than 1 mil­lion fol­low­ers onWeChat.

Yu Wenlu, also known as Vi­vian, a co-founder and chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for Sweetie Salad, said the com­pany was cre­ated in 2014 after its founders no­ticed a crav­ing among peo­ple for de­liv­ery of healthy food, and it has en­joyed rapid growth ever since. The com­pany has more than 170 staffmem­ber­sand has also es­tab­lished a branch in Shang­hai.

Yu is con­fi­dent of a strong mar­ket, say­ing that peo­ple are in­creas­ingly aware of healthy eat­ing.

About 70 per­cent of Sweetie Salad cus­tomers are fe­males, and the cus­tomers are young— about 90 per­cent are be­tween 20 to 40 years old, and 60 per­cent are peo­ple ages 20 to 30, Yu said.

About 60 per­cent of cus­tomers are Sweetie Salad reg­u­lars, and many buy more than 10 times a year, which amounts to more than 2,000 yuan ($300), Yu said.

The com­pany has also launched an on­line shop­ping plat­form to sell what it calls “healthy food”, such as muesli, dried fruits, herbal tea and oat bis­cuits.

Chen Na, an of­fice worker in Bei­jing, said she and many of her friends and col­leagues have tried a va­ri­ety of such ser­vices, in­clud­ing those for gym-go­ers and di­eters.

“I want to re­duce fat and gain mus­cle to im­prove my body shape, and Iknowhealthy eat­ing, es­pe­cially in­take of enough high pro­teins and low calo­ries, re­ally mat­ters for that pur­pose,” Chen said.

“In the past, I had no choice but to dine out in eater­ies around the of­fice, and I’m glad there are new­choices for me to stay fit and healthy now, with th­ese healthy food de­liv­ery ser­vices.”

The food at restau­rants around the of­fice usu­ally is not healthy enough, Chen said, be­cause it has too much oil and salt. She added that she needs few­car­bo­hy­drates but rich pro­tein to main­tain a steady basal meta­bolic rate.

Another rea­son she or­ders the take­out is be­cause the food is de­liv­ered to her of­fice and so is very con­ve­nient to eat.

Chen’s first ex­pe­ri­ence with such eat­ing was a salad brand, at the rec­om­men­da­tion of a col­league in July last year who was a reg­u­lar cus­tomer of that brand.

She or­dered the salad on and off for lunch for a long time. It usu­ally con­tained veg­eta­bles, fruits, white meat such as chicken breast and fish, and some­times grains.

Chen said she en­joyed both the taste and the nu­tri­tion, but is al­ways open to newop­tions.

Her re­cent fa­vorite was a five­day-a-week take­out menu from a local kitchen. The ser­vice fea­tures break­fast, lunch, din­ner and a snack for a day’s con­sump­tion each work­day, and it also in­cludes a fit­ness ex­er­cise video.

Hav­ing such take­out food also gives her psy­cho­log­i­cal sat­is­fac­tion be­cause she proac­tively man­ages her eat­ing habits and life­style. Ad­di­tion­ally, it mo­ti­vates her to ex­er­cise more pas­sion­ately, partly be­cause the ser­vice can be ex­pen­sive, Chen said.

She said most of those us­ing the ser­vice around her are fe­males, per­haps be­cause they are more sen­si­tive to body im­age and health and are more par­tic­u­lar about food qual­ity.

Many men she knows who go to the gym reg­u­larly buy chicken salad from con­ve­nience stores, she added.

While most of the calo­rie-con­trol meals are fu­sion orWestern­style, 700Kcal, es­tab­lished last year, pro­vides a va­ri­ety of calo­riecon­trolled cuisines, in­clud­ing Thai and Caribbean food.

Its out­lets in Bei­jing sell such meals, and it plans to open branches in other cities, in­clud­ing Zhengzhou, He­nan prov­ince; Zhuhai, Guangdong prov­ince; and Chongqing.

Tino, chief op­er­a­tion of­fi­cer with 700Kcal, said the com­pany not only has a wide fol­low­ing among in­di­vid­ual buy­ers, but also sells prod­ucts at some eater­ies, be­cause it has a ster­ile cen­tral kitchen to pro­duce stan­dard­ized prod­ucts.

Liu Ya­jie, a car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease specialist in Guangzhou, said he wel­comes the pop­u­lar­ity of such de­liv­ery ser­vices, be­cause healthy eat­ing is im­por­tant to pre­vent many chronic dis­eases.

How­ever, he warned that since th­ese ser­vices of­ten pro­vide such dishes as salad and wa­ter-boiled meat, cus­tomers should make sure that the ser­vices are pro­vid­ing clean, safe food with cold­chain lo­gis­tics. Oth­er­wise, he said, pathogens such as E. coli, which can cause di­ar­rhea, can eas­ily re­pro­duce.

I want to re­duce fat and gain mus­cle to im­prove my body shape, and I know healthy eat­ing, es­pe­cially in­take of enough high pro­teins and low calo­ries, re­ally mat­ters for that pur­pose.” Chen Na, of­fice worker


Staff mem­bers from food de­liv­ery ser­vice Need Nu­tri­tion in Bei­jing gather for a pro­mo­tional im­age for healthy eat­ing.

Ac­tor Wu Xi­ubo (cen­ter) joins a pro­mo­tional event with peo­ple from Sweetie Salad.

A Need Nu­tri­tion staff mem­ber delivers food to a Bei­jing of­fice.

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