Technology is reshaping the way we purchase fresh food
For as long as I can remember, my most familiar way of shopping for daily food ingredients has been to browse a local supermarket, grab some fresh vegetables and fruits, meats and everything else I need, then carry all the heavy bags by hand back home.
During my childhood, my mother often rose at dawn to buy fresh food at a nearby wet market, which took her at least 30 minutes. During my postgraduate years in Edinburgh, I also went to nearby grocery chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s to shop for ingredients to make my own meals.
When I first moved to Shanghai in 2015, I found that buying fresh ingredients for my daily meals was quite inconvenient. The variety of fresh food sold at many of the city’s larger grocery stores is rather limited and expensive.
As such, I often eat outside or use meal delivery apps, which I think are more time-saving and cost effective than shopping for and preparing my own meals.
But with the rapid development of online food delivery services in China, raw food materials including vegetables, fruits, seafood, meats and dairy are now more readily available to urban residents
Such apps allow citizens of booming first-tier cities to have fresh food delivered directly to their front door within an hour of placing their order – and without any shipping fees.
So what are the advantages of shopping for fresh ingredients via mobile apps compared with buying food offline? The biggest attraction, in my opinion, is convenience. To be more exact, this kind of service frees up busy office workers such as myself from the time-wasting activity of having to go to a grocery store and then carry everything back home.
In Shanghai, many people simply do not have enough time or energy to go shopping for food. I myself usually arrive at home from work at around 7 pm, which is when I am already too exhausted to spend another 20 minutes to visit a grocery store.
Food delivery service apps perfectly solve this problem. I can order the ingredients I wish to cook for my dinner while riding the bus or subway home, and by the time I reach my front door the food will usually be delivered around the same time!
Apart from convenience, the options on these platforms tends to be more diverse than at most community grocery stores. Take my neighborhood in Putuo district: I have to go to one stall for meat, one for vegetables and another for fruits. It’s a big waste of my time and energy; after all, I am a 26-year-old professional with places to go and people to see.
Shopping for fresh food on my mobile is another cool experience. With just a few swipes, I can browse several different categories of ingredients in just a few minutes instead of having to push a cart up and down several aisles. And based on the detailed introductions of each item, I’ll know if it’s suitable for my meal or not.
With these and other advantages, you’d think that online food delivery services would be far more expensive than just going to a local grocery store. Not so. Rent in Shanghai has become so expensive, and labor costs also rising, that many brickand-mortar grocery stores can no longer keep their merchandise affordable for consumers.
Also, many apps have deep discounts in order to attract new shoppers.
I truly enjoy the experience of buying food online and having everything delivered to my door for free. Such services have brought huge conveniences to busy workers in Shanghai. But one thing I cannot stomach is that, every time I open the box, I feel guilty about seeing so much plastic being used. This stuff is not recyclable and is doing great harm to our environment, so I would like to see these apps start using biodegradable packaging.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.