Beyond fast junk – Delivery companies struggle to meet fresh demand

In locked-down Shanghai, fresh food delivery platforms are hiring employees and using community group buying to feed the people.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By SHE Xiaochen


Since March, Shanghai has seen various lockdowns, and the demand for food deliveries, especially fresh food, has never been higher - two to three times that of normal days. The problem now is a shortage of manpower. Store employees are locked in their homes.

Facing surging orders and limited delivery capacity, Dingdong Maicai is interviewing more than 100 new employees a day, about half of them as delivery drivers. Warehouses face similar problems. The solution? Employee sharing.

Employees from restaurants and supermarkets that are closed are hired to ease the logistical crunch. Hundreds of people in Shanghai work like this for Dingdong Maicai every day. In the Pudong area, it could be as many as 1,000. Hema Fresh has more than 300 people participating. Hema’s employees also spontaneously organized a voluntary delivery team of nearly 100 private cars to help with deliveries.

For Hema Fresh, community group buying apps have developed into a core market, while, Dingdong Maicai uses the resources of its B2B partner Dingdong Xiaoman. Providing next-day deliveries, Dingdong Maicai drops off at community pick-up points by truck. The service now covers more than 600 communities in the Pudong area.

Hiring new employees and collecting orders can only alleviate part of the issue. The penetration rate of fresh food deliveries in China is only about 10 percent. Lockdown drove a large amount of offline purchasing power online. RT-Mart, Carrefour, and Metro all now have fixed-point food deliveries to communities.