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China’s packaged food market: consumers’ online shopping preferences podcast

Wide range of product, easy price comparison, speedy delivery and other advantages offered by shopping websites have fuelled the rapid growth of online shopping in China. Today large numbers of Chinese consumers shop online regularly. According to a survey on China’s packaged food market by HKTDC Research, 34% of the respondents have shopped online for packaged food.

34% have bought packaged food online

In the survey, 34% of the respondents have bought packaged food online. In Shanghai, the respondents who have bought packaged food online account for 66%, whereas for the high-income group, the ratio of online shoppers is 45%. Of the respondents who have bought food online, their average frequency of online shopping of food is 1.52 times a month, with 10% of the respondents usually buying packaged food online 2-3 times a month.

Those who have not tried online shopping of packaged food say the main reason is that it is convenient to buy at physical shops in the neighbourhood where the products they usually buy are available. In addition, they are concerned about the quality guarantee of food offered by online shops, worrying that they might be fakes.

Chart: Frequency of buying packaged food online


Table: Frequency of buying packaged food online

Advantages: convenience and price

Asked why they shopped online, 56% of the respondents who have done so said it is for convenience and 51% said the prices are cheaper. It is worth noting that 51% of the respondents in Shanghai said they have “no time to go shopping at conventional shops”, noticeably higher than the overall average of 31%. On the other hand, 76% of the respondents in Chengdu reckon “prices are cheaper online”, noticeably higher than the overall average of 51%. In focus group discussions, some participants pointed out that one of the reasons for shopping online is the wider variety of products available online than in supermarkets, where some products, particularly imported snack food, are not available. In the survey, 42% of the respondents said they shop online because they “can find some unique / special products online”.

Chart: Reasons for buying packaged food online

Snack food: major item of online shopping

In the survey, respondents were asked which categories of packaged food they have bought online in the past year. 79% of the respondents said snack food (excluding biscuits and cakes). In Shanghai, the proportion of online purchase of snack food (excluding biscuits and cakes) is as high as 91%. 

Chart: Categories of packaged food bought online

Taobao: major online shopping platform

Among the respondents who have bought packaged food online, 71% say they have bought packaged food via Taobao, followed by Yihaodian (33%). For the respondents in Shanghai, an evidently greater proportion of the higher-income group has bought packaged food via Yihaodian. 

Chart: Online shopping platforms where respondents buy packaged food

Average online purchase amount 

Of the respondents who have shopped online, 78% spend between Rmb51 and Rmb200 in a single online purchase of packaged food, with the average single purchase amount at Rmb128. Some respondents in the focus group discussions said that due to the minimum order value for free delivery usually imposed by the online shops, they would therefore group orders to meet the minimum value so as to enjoy the service (for example, among colleagues in the office). The single online purchase amount averages about Rmb100-200. 

Chart: Average online purchase amount of packaged food


Content provided by Picture: Billy Wong
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