Chinese online fruit company cashes in on Singles' Day

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Chinese online fruit company cashes in on Singles' Day

Alibaba-owned online Chinese shopping websites and have made a mint in the last five years from the event "Double 11" on Nov. 11, and the fruit industry has taken notice.

The two companies almost doubled sales for this year's event - also known as "Singles' Day" - at CNY35 billion (US$6.42 billion), surpassing expectations of CNY30 billion (US$4.94 billion). In the Chinese press, Alibaba founder Jack Ma played down the expected figure, saying it wasn't "jaw-dropping".

"I believe we'll see a Singles’ Day when the sales shoot up to (CNY) 100 billion (US$16.47 billion)," Ma was quoted as saying.

Ma's big concern is getting logistics and operations to meet demand, but believes stability trumps speed; a philosophy also held by fruit trading company, which carried out a Double 11 campaign with for the first time in 2013. vice president Zhao Guozhang told the event was a huge success.

"This year’s Singles' Day campaign produced promising results; Based on our own statistics, our online outlets on alone brought in 11,843 transactions and over CNY1 million (US$164,717)," Zhao said.

"The produce industry is actually one of the last industries brought onto the online platform, yet it has proven to be an industry where online marketing plays an important role." was founded in 2009 and sat out on the Singles Day promotions when it joined last year.

"We only set up our shop on TMall last year. We were still learning and familiarizing ourselves with all the procedures, and that's why we didn’t participate in TMall’s Singles’ day campaign last year," Zhao said.Fruitday panorama 1

While the company's best sales were for Zespri kiwifruit, Zhao said the promotion included many brands, sourced both locally and from abroad.

"Each buyer has his or her own preferences, and we certainly do not wish to limit our customers’ options," Zhao said.

"Neither do we want to give a perfunctory presence on Nov. 11 by showcasing only a couple of products, therefore, we launched sales on many of our products on for the entire day.

Zhao said the company worked with TMall on several sizable marketing campaigns earlier this year, including the joint promotion of cherries with the U.S. Northwest Cherries Association in July, along with Zespri kiwifruit promotions.

The executive mentioned the Chinese market was transforming "at an incredible rate".

"What we are seeing is that the produce industry caught up with the trend very quickly, in spite of many problems it's facing. If we think about it, only five years back, there weren't all that many people buying stuff online, but now, almost everyone owns an Alipay account as well as a Taobao account. The same rationale applies to the produce industry," he said.

"We have made large investments early on; by that I mean we built our own cold storage, assembled our own logistics, delivery and service teams; we made sure every customer representative on our team is an expert in the produce industry so that they can answer any questions our customers have about fruits. For the past few years, we've been heavily investing in preparatory efforts like these."

Zhao added the company could also learn from leading marketing concepts abroad.

"For those in the fruit industry, we've got to stay open-minded and learn from others, and, as we have seen, many international companies possess highly advanced cold chain logistics and preservation techniques, which Chinese firms have yet to get the hang of. And that technical know-how is what we are striving to obtain.

Shortly after Singles' Day on Nov. 18, Fruitday's Beijing branch officially began running, marking the firm's official entrance into the northern Chinese market.

For Zhao, the goal is to bring high quality service to more customers in other parts of China.

"We started off serving the Shanghai area, but as we gradually established our brand, we began providing services to areas near Shanghai and a few other cities in southern China, and now Beijing.

However, this does not mean has embarked on a track of bold market expansion.

"As of now, the focus of our service still centers around the first-tier cities," Zhao said.

"We have conducted extensive market research in Beijing. Regarding our cold chain logistics, I have to say challenges remain, but I do believe with our previous successful experience in Shanghai, overcoming those challenges won't be an impossible mission for us.

"Behind every step we take there is a systematic approach to management."

The executive added that by working with, he discovered great potential among China's second-, third-, and even fourth-tier cities, and the internet serves as a long-waited solution to the problem of procurement faced by many Chinese consumers in the past.

"We have done market testing with, and we found many cities contain potential that far exceeded our imagination. These consumers probably haven't had an available channel to purchase high quality imported fruits at a reasonable price in the past, but soon they will be able to."

In the coming months, Fruitday will also be collaborating with USA Pears.


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