Updated: 2014-01-26 07:21
By Xu Lin (China Daily)
Chinese are shopping the world and bringing home the best foods to set the table during the Lunar New Year holidays. Xu Lin tracks the trend.
The average family reunion dinner this Lunar New Year's Eve may have a menu that sounds as if it came out of a city-fusion restaurant - organic pork from Yunnan, seafood from Dalian, lotus root from Hubei and mango from Hainan.
That's largely because it's not as if they need to go through extraordinary lengths to get all the ingredients. Often, it's just the tap of a finger, thanks to the proliferation of goods available online.
"The convenient online markets save me a lot of energy when shopping for Spring Festival and allow me to try food from different places," says Tan Wanwei, 25, who works in an advertising company in Shanghai.
According to e-commerce website Taobao.com, 53.8 percent of online shoppers that do their Lunar New Year shopping were born after 1980 - that is, since the country adopted the opening-up and reform policy.
They prefer to do the annual shopping binges at home rather than follow their parents' footsteps in tiring themselves out lugging home bundles of goods from wet or dry markets.
"I just bought some imported snacks online, such as dried cranberries and cookies, because they are only available on the Internet," Tan says.
"I want my parents to share these delicious foods during the festival."
She fell in love with these snacks while pursuing her master's degree in the United States.
Tan says the snacks from online shops have a more recent manufacturing date because the sales turnover is fast and the stock gets replenished more frequently than in the neighborhood shops.
Liu Nanqin, a 23-year-old TV drama scenarist from Beijing, says: "The e-commerce sites offer a better variety of goods. They also deliver door-to-door and prices are cheaper because the overheads are lower."
Online shopping allows her to avoid the supermarket crowds loading up for the Spring Festival, and she doesn't have to wait in line at the counters.
With the development of cold-chain logistics, such fresh foods as seafood, meat and fruits can be efficiently delivered to the doorstep, allowing even inland homes to enjoy seafood feasts.
From Jan 2 to 6, Taobao.com offered more than 80 discounted items especially for the Lunar New Year.
About 30,000 buyers visited the website on the first day, and the three most popular goods were Chinese dates, chocolates and organic walnuts.
Liu says that, compared to when she was a child, there are now various foods and snacks for the festival. And she only has to choose her favorites.
Imported chocolate is not a traditional Spring Festival food but has become an important snack during the festival.
Zhu Ailing, a 53-year-old accountant from Hubei province's Qianjiang, is a diehard online shopping fan.
Like many consumers, she buys hard-to-get regional produce online, and only gets local products from the supermarkets because there are more choices.
"I don't have much time to visit the supermarket, but I can surf the Internet at work. Online shopping is perfect for me," she says.
Zhu bought agaric mushrooms, imported milk and red wine online, and got sausages and meatballs from her local market.
She says food items for the festival are more diversified than a decade or two ago.
Zhu is relieved she doesn't have to prepare snacks like sesame candy herself. Instead of slaving in the kitchen from dawn to dusk, she can now get everything her family needs online.
"It's very convenient. Even if you're not happy with the goods, all you have to pay is about 10 yuan ($1.65) to return them," she says.
Taobao.com's research reveals other trends.
After Jan 1, sales of traditional door couplets rose - the same happened with the traditional red paper-cuts used to decorate doors and windows.
Data also show an increased awareness of environmental protection. The search volume for electronic firecrackers on Taobao.com rose by 149.3 percent compared with the same period of 2013.
As heavy smog continues to shroud many places in China, including Beijing, Hebei province, Shanghai and Jiangsu province, many agree that firecrackers should be avoided because they're pollution sources. A better awareness of quality and health seem prevalent as well.
Zhu says: "I bought red wine online, which is better for health compared with distilled spirits. Also, I bought some sugar-free cookies - perfect for the diabetes patient in the family."
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(China Daily 01/26/2014 page3)