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
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.