Eating food near its expiration date (hereinafter referred to as NED Food) to reduce waste is trending worldwide. Many countries even have supermarkets dedicated specifically to selling NED foods such as WeFood in Denmark and Daily Table in the US. In line with these trends, the EU has even gone as far to propose changes to regulatory requirements regarding foods which are non-perishable or those with long shelf life to remove mandatory “best before” labeling requirements.
Paralleling China’s increased volume of food imports, similar stores selling NED Food have also emerged in cities like Beijing and Shanghai allowing supermarkets to offset losses and offer consumers better value on imported products. In addition to these offline stores, online e-commerce platforms such as “Haoshiqi”(好食期) and “Shuaishuaimai”(甩甩卖) specialized in selling NED Food have also been launched and are performing well. Just a cursory glance at Taobao using the search terms “food near expiration date” reveals, almost 2,900 related stores.
However, this type of food business is still very niche in China. The lack of traction in this area is mostly down to Chinese consumer psychology and the perception that NED Food is expired food and represents a significant food safety risk. The expiration date is a bit of taboo subject for retailers, and it is extremely difficult to find any retailers who will actively showcase products expiration dates.
According to the most recent data about 100 billion Yuan of foods are destroyed every year in China. This staggering wastage does offer some food for thought though. If China’s NED Food sector can be standardized, it will not only reduce the wastage of valuable resources but also offer lucrative new opportunities for retailers and value to the consumers. Of course, before all this is achieved consumers will need to be educated and regulatory compliance adjusted accordingly. Let’s just watch this space...