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Nielsen Release China Fresh e-commerce Development White paper

Married white-collar females with high household income become main force to shop fresh online

Comparing to offline purchases, buying fresh online tends to be lower frequent but bigger spending

Shanghai – Oct 30, 2015 – Since 2013, along with traditional e-commerce in China, fresh e-commerce has rapidly developed and has become the new battle field for online retailers’ e-commerce. Not only are the dominant general e-commerce players placing more emphasis on fresh, specialty fresh e-commerce companies are also seeing dramatic growth. The Internet, now, has become one of the major channels for consumers to buy fresh.

The latest Nielsen China Fresh E-Commerce Development White Paper indicates that young white-collar consumers are most interested in purchasing fresh products online, with the online shopper’s average age being 33. Eighty percent (80%) has are married. They are well educated, 81% have bachelor degrees or above and high household income of 19k on average. Among all fresh categories, over 60 percent of respondents buy dairy online, which has the highest penetration, followed by fruit (51%), veg/meat/seafood’s stays relatively low (38%). Compared to traditional channels, fresh products bought online tend to be bought less frequently but consumers spend more.

The findings are based on a nation-wide study with more than 1600 consumers in seven cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Nanjing). Online consumer fresh purchase behavior and intention are the focus of this study to identify the emerging trends.

Internet has become one of the major channels for consumers to buy Fresh, with high category penetration of Dairy & Fruit

According to the Nielsen study, among respondents who bought fresh in the recent week, fruit has the highest category penetration (76%), then dairy (73%), veg/meat/seafood is of relatively low interest.

In terms of channel preference, the internet has become one of the most popular channels to shop fresh. Superstore remains the primary channel for consumers to buy dairy products. Internet comes second, where 63% of consumers Nielsen interviewed have bought dairy products online. Likewise, superstore stays top of mind option for consumers to buy fruit, followed by specialty fruit shop and internet comes in at 51%; for veg/meat/seafood, offline channels like the superstore and wet market are still dominant, while internet penetration is 38%; Among all categories (dairy, fruit and veg/meat/seafood), there are 30% of consumers who show intention to do online shopping, suggesting a promising market demand.

Consumers say they buy fruit online 1.36 times a week, with average spending of 93 RMB per order; The numbers for veg/meat/seafood are 1.8 times and 108 RMB per order. Compared to offline channels, fresh e-commerce has low shopping frequency (only 50% versus offline) and high spend (almost doubling offline).

When it comes to city tiers, consumers in Tier 1 cities are more likely to purchase fresh online compare to tier 2 cities. Shanghai tops all other Tier 1 cities thanks to its well-established infrastructures.

Freshness, Convenience, Value for Money are the Key Concerns for Consumers Who Buy Fresh Online

According to the Nielsen study, consumers are looking for freshness (79%), convenience (74%) and value for money(73%) when it comes to buying fresh products online. Consumers would prefer to buy fresh online because of a perception of more promotions (52%), more options on origins (74%) and  lots of imported products(47%). Sixty seven percent (67%) of consumers still prefer modern and traditional trade channels as they value “freshness. Advantages for modern trade and traditional trade are respectively perceived to be “guaranteed great quality” (57%) and “convenience” (57%). All of these responses suggest that the development of fresh e-commerce lies in the quality of the produce and. Consumers’ unmet needs for fresh products and convenience present both a challenge and opportunity for market players.

Landscape of Fresh E-Commerce is Yet to Be Shaped

Fresh e-commerce has been considered the last piece of cake for e-commerce market.

With the advantages of an existing user base, platform-based fresh e-commerce companies like Tmall, JD and YHD are enjoying higher brand awareness. (Overall brand awareness sits at 75%, 72% and68%). For all other specialty fresh e-commerce companies, their brand awareness is subject to consumers’ regional preferences. In Shanghai, FruitDay has the highest brand awareness (63%), while in Beijing & Guangzhou, Womai (71%) and SF Express (57%) have recognition.

When it comes to consumer loyalty, Tmall leads the way (20% of interviewed consumers say they like Tmall the best and 19% say they would strongly recommend Tmall). YHD (13% & 12%), JD (11% & 10%), FruitDay (9%, 9%), SF Express (8%, 10%) and Womai (8% & 9%) are all on par when asking consumers preference. To differentiate products and service to drive consumer loyalty is going to be the next challenge for Fresh e-commerce companies.

Among the Fresh e-commerce websites, Ben Lai & FruitDay stand out on brand equity. There are 31% and 28% of consumers respectively show their willingness to pay incremental for the brand. However, there is not a single brand that boasts unique competitive advantage over one another. To build a robust brand would propel the Fresh e-commerce companies into an abundant potential consumer growth.

Trends and Opportunities of Fresh E-Commerce for the Future

China’s recent policies like “one belt, one road”, Free Trade Zone building, cross border e-commerce development and expansion of cold-chain logistics all bring in benefits to the development of fresh e-commerce. China’s No 1 State Document has emphasized the development of agriculture product online trading, agricultural commodities futures trading, new varieties of agricultural futures trading. It supports e-commerce, logistics, trade, finance and other enterprises to invest in agriculture-related e-commerce platform; Special customs clearance has been designed and set up in the Free Trade Zone, China’s first fresh e-commerce company “FruitDay” has entered the Shanghai Free Trade zone(?) and operates their cross border platform, where the processes of taxation, customs inspection and payment have been streamlined to benefit the businesses and their consumers, speeding up the import of fresh products.

End-to-end cold chain logistics is a fundamental requirement for fresh delivery, reducing waste and increasing margins. At present, China’s cold -storage capacity is among top three globally, yet low  per capita. Further development of fresh e-commerce presents a great market opportunity for cold chain.

Nielsen China Managing Director, Kiki Fan, says, “The fresh category has its specific requirements, especially the high standard for food quality and punctual delivery. From Nielsen’s study, we have seen that shopping for veg/meat/seafood online has a relatively low penetration. E-commerce companies need to consider consumers’ perspectives, to offer more transparent product information, offering more options and strengthening delivery capability. i.e. Introducing ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products to help consumers save time, integrate value chains, streamline processes, and offer better price and better quality. All of these would help fresh e-commerce players stand out from the game.”

“On the other hand, fresh online shoppers tend to be high income, female, white-collar and regional-focused. Fresh e-commerce companies should understand their core consumer base and learn how to present their products to this consumer segment, by offering customization and scenario- based shopping, indulgence shopping and nutrition customization. Fresh e-commerce should expand its reach beyond just ‘feed the stomach’ to seize any emerging opportunities,” added Kiki.


Nielsen N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. Nielsen’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content—video, audio and text—is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance.  Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit


Edith Li +8623269219