While doom and gloom marked September 5 for Tingyi, for Zhang Jun it was just another working day. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the 31-year-old delivery rider rushed through the streets of Beijing on his motorbike. The app on his phone would tell him which restaurant to pick up food orders and at which address to drop off. He had a 40 minute deadline. Being a delivery rider is not for the faint-hearted. “You have to be very fast. Time is money,” said Zhang, who could deliver 20 meals a day. “Some people can do more within the same time, and of course, they can make more money.” For every order completed, the delivery rider earns between 2 to 6 yuan ($0.3-0.9), which, together with a basic salary, could total more than 5,000 yuan ($742) a month, a decent income in Beijing for people without a degree or professional skills. This job hardly existed five years ago, but today, platoons of delivery riders whizzing along the streets have become characteristic of Chinese cities.
What connected the riders with restaurants are the meal-ordering platforms accessed by 150 million Chinese consumers through their smart phones.
One of the four major platforms, Ele.me, for example, was founded in 2009. In less than seven years, the company has expanded its business to over 1,000 Chinese cities and had over 500,000 restaurants registered. It is now leading the market with a daily trading volume of 200 million yuan ($30 million), according to a report released by the company in August.
The new trend also benefited the restaurants. South Memory, a popular Chinese restaurant chain indicated it could receive 4,000 online orders per day.
In 2015, the online meal-ordering market in China was worth about 44 billion yuan ($6.2 billion), almost the same size as the noodle market at its peak. It is estimated to continue growing to 150 billion yuan ($22 billion) in 2018, according to CNNIC.
Online meal-ordering is just another e-commerce miracle, but Wu Xiaobo, a financial commentator, believed that it was not achieved by the power of the Internet alone. In the past years, the food and beverage market was also reshaped by people’s increasing awareness about healthier eating, he said.
In a recent survey by the research company Nielsen, three-quarters of the interviewees said they were willing to pay a higher price for healthy food without artificial flavoring and non-genetically modified food.
Against such a background, instant noodles were not the only food stuff losing favor. According to a report by survey firm CTR Market Research, the sales of beer, sweet beverages and packaged food such as ice cream and candy also slumped in 2015. Meanwhile, more nutritious foods like yogurt and certain energy beverages were increasing in market share as people became conscious of a healthier lifestyle. This taste change is “irreversible” as the Chinese economy keeps growing and the middle-class population increases, said Wu.
“People didn’t pay much attention to healthier eating in the past, because it took much more time and money. But now we have a variety of online services to make it easy and affordable,” said Qi. “So why not?” Comments to zhengyang@ chinafrica.cn
Delivery riders have become characteristic of Chinese cities