Tech­nol­ogy is re­shap­ing the way we pur­chase fresh food

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Wang Han

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.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Lu Ting/GT

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