August 8th, 2014
I’ve noticed more and more stores like this popping up around the neighbourhood recently. The earliest ones started to appear a few years ago, but there seems to be a sudden increase in them. Here’s a few points I’ve noticed about them:
1: The aesthetic seems to be largely the same among all such stores, from the general layout right down to the colour schemes, size, style, and fonts on the signage.
2: Although they are generally green grocers, the focus is definitely on fruit – to the point where the names of the stores, be they independent or branches of a chain, always feature the character 果 (guǒ, fruit). In this photo, the store’s name is 果蔬鲜 (Guǒ Shū Xiān), which, in addition to having quite a pleasant sound, means literally “Fruit Vegetable Fresh”. Another new grocer I’ve seen is called 多果多 (Duō Guǒ Duō) – “Lots of fruit, lots”.
3: This is perhaps the important bit: These stores seem to be occupying a previously vacant niche between supermarkets and markets. The example in the photo above is located in a residential area right around the corner from a lane that becomes an impromptu market in the mornings. Not far away is the large, 2-storey barn that the local outdoor market was moved in to a few years back. About 500 metres down the road is a supermarket. And so the locals have choices: They could buy their fruit and veges from people squatting behind blankets spread out on the ground; They could walk a little further and buy from a market which is certainly cleaner and has a full range of other daily goods and necessities, but is still very much small stallholders, with all the nagging little questions about where they’re really sourcing their products from; They could trek down to the supermarket and pay definitely higher prices while getting no greater a range of produce to choose from; Or now they can shop at this new green grocer, which has a good range of fruit and vegetables, and whose set-up and signage projects that same air of security and confidence as the supermarket.
Now, Zespri is doing a very good job. Zespri is easy enough to find, especially in higher end/international supermarkets. Zespri is doing well enough that I’ve seen cartons of kiwifruit in suspiciously Zespri-like colours with suspiciously close to IPR-infringing labels. But I don’t see a lot of other New Zealand fruit around. It seems to me that New Zealand has two huge advantages when selling fruit to China, namely its clean, green, quality reputation and the off season. These new stores seem to me a good sign of the demand among ordinary Chinese for better quality goods and a better quality experience. Surely New Zealand could step up?