The growing appetite for high-quality products and the convenience of purchasing goods online are expected to generate a huge demand for imported food products, as Chinese shoppers start stocking up ahead of the upcoming Spring Festival, also known as the Lunar New Year.
Major e-commerce platforms have already been preparing for the busy season and have started to offer a wide range of imported selections from this month onward with an eye on the 2015 Spring Festival, which falls on Feb 19 this year.
"Based on our sales performance during the pre-Spring Festival season of the past two years, we believe that a large number of consumers will do their festival shopping online.
Imported food is expected to be on top of their mind in terms of making some special purchases for the celebration, "said PanBiao, vice-president of yhd, an online supermarket that is majority-owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Statistics from the Shanghai-based yhd showed that the sales of nianhuo, the special purchases made for the celebration of Spring Festival, surged about 100 percent before the 2014 Spring Festival, compared with the same period in 2013.Imported food accounted for 47 percent of the nianhuo sales in 2014, compared with 37 percent in 2013.
Pan said it is difficult to estimate the exact quantity of imported food that will be sold during the upcoming Spring Festival. "Imported food is expected to account for most of the nianhuo sales and yhd has increased its range of imported offerings" he said, adding the company offered nearly 70,000 kinds of imported food products at the end of 2014, up from 14,000 in 2013.
Amazon China, which started its promotion for the nianhuo selections on Wednesday, said that Chinese usually start shopping four weeks before the Spring Festival. "The shopping during the first two weeks tends to focus on buying food and new garments for the family. Later, it would move on to gifts, such as healthcare products and wine, for relatives they plan to visit during the holidays," the company said in an e-mail reply to China Daily on Thursday.
According to Amazon China, fancy imported products, such as dairy products, wine and chocolates, will see robust sales in the runup to the Spring Festival.
The booming of the cross-border e-commerce market in China has not only made purchasing imported food possible but also made it easier to buy fresh and frozen products from overseas. Womai, the e-commerce platform owned by China National Cereals, Oil and Foodstuffs Corp, the country's largest trader of grains and edible oils, expects a large number of Chinese will cook their Spring Festival family get-together dinner with ingredients from over-seas.
Tong Yang, a manager from womai's public relations team, said that buying imported food is becoming a "rigid demand", especially among Chinese families in first-tier cities.
"We have started to offer a wide range of selections from beef and seafood from New Zealand to cherries from Chile since 2014.These products have been well-received.
"Since we send our own team to the overseas destinations and source the products locally, we are able to offer the products at competitive prices. Prices of imported food items sold on our website are sometimes lower than the prices of local products sold in brick-and-mortar supermarkets in China," said Tong.
According to Tong, womai anticipates sales of imported products to more than triple the level it achieved during the Spring festival period last year.