Milk producers from Germany, France and Belgium may be surprised to find out they were part of a new world record set on Tuesday.
Yhd.com, the largest e-commerce company in Shanghai for imported foods, set a Guinness World Record on Tuesday by selling 30 containers, or 600,000 boxes, of imported milk in China within one hour. About 44 percent of the milk came from the three European countries.
According to the site, a majority of which is owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc, 15 brands of milk from eight countries - Poland, Belgium, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom - were gobbled up by Chinese online shoppers in just 53 minutes after the launch of a sales event, which started at 10 am.
"Milk from Germany was our best seller in that event," said Zhao Jiayu, senior commodity director of Yhd.com, the largest milk importer on the Chinese mainland. Milk from France ranked third.
The company said that its sales of imported milk accounted for about 40 percent of China's total in 2013.
The success of the sales event confirms not only Chinese consumers' strong purchasing power but also their hunger for high-quality imported food, company executives said.
Yhd.com's sales of food and beverages increased 103.4 percent in 2013. Of that, sales of imports surged 137 percent year-on-year. Products from the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium account for about half of Yhd.com's imported food stock, which has 18,000 different products imported from 68 countries and regions around the world.
"Milk from the four countries is the most popular product in China. But cookies, chocolates and wine are also widely welcomed by Chinese customers," Zhao said.
The surging sales from the four countries can be attributed to two things: people's desire to improve their quality of life and their concerns about food safety, especially dairy products, she said.
China is on track to become the world's largest consumer of imported food, with an expected market value of up to $80 billion by 2018, according to forecasts by the US-based Association of Food Industries.
Song Yang, an e-commerce senior analyst with the Beijing-based research firm Analysys International, used the term "infinitely large" to describe the imported food market in the country.
"The competition for e-commerce companies in this sector is not about how many customers you can attract but how many good suppliers you can locate," Song said.
Since last year, Yhd.com has formed strategic partnerships with trade commissions and agriculture organizations from six countries.
The partnerships allow Yhd.com to gain more firsthand information about the respective countries' top-quality food brands and products and to set up direct contacts with suppliers.
"For example, we have regular contact with some official departments from France that introduce some good French suppliers to us directly. We are eager to expand this kind of cooperation to other European countries," Zhao said.
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