There is a common misconception among expats before they land in Shanghai, that food shopping is going to be a huge and difficult chore. Where will I find gluten free flour? What if I get tired of Chinese food and feel like a Japanese curry? I can’t live without truffle oil!
In reality, Shanghai’s online food offerings have surged ahead in recent years, with several excellent online “supermarkets” stocking and delivering favourite foods from around the world. Epermarket and Kate & Kimi have ever-increasing stock lists catering primarily to Western tastes, although all stock Asian foods as well, with specialty sections for cuisines like Indian, Mexican, Thai and traditional French or British fare. Generally, stock lines start with the basic pantry fillers, but include everything from fresh meat, seafood and vegetables, to a wide variety of fresh and frozen foods.
Competition is fierce in this growing market, and the online players are constantly trying to find the one thing that will deliver customer loyalty. Specialty sections for home-baked goods or pre-prepared meals, daily sale items, regular special offers feature, and even guest celebrity chefs, are just some of the lures. After all, being able to have a freshly roasted and trimmed turkey delivered for Thanksgiving or Christmas might just deliver a loyal customer!
Delivery, or kuaidi as it’s known locally, is de rigueur in Shanghai. Any delivery fees are generally waived for orders over a set amount, so it’s often more economical to simply add a few more items to the cart. Same day delivery is usually offered and in most cases free of a surcharge, although you should check the fine print.
So dramatic has the rise of online shopping been in Shanghai, that many long-term expats report no longer feeling the need to drag suitcases full of comfort foods back to the city when returning from trips back home; the range of offerings in the city, and particularly online, now outweighing the inconvenience of all that extra baggage.