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Food and Drink

China turns online when it comes to food cravings

China's Mid-Autumn festival is traditionally a time for feasting and a new trend has emerged in the wake of this year's event - more Chinese than ever are turning to the internet when they get the munchies.

With the festival ending on September 23, figures have shown that online sales on the traditional mooncake snack has this year skyrocketed, with Taobao.com - the country's largest online portal - offering 20 different brands and seeing sales soar towards the 10 million yuan (one million euro) mark.

And the numbers are set to increase, according to the people at Dangdang.com, the first Chinese site to start selling food online. Since establishing the service in 2008, the company has seen the percentage of foodstuffs sold grow to 10 percent of its output - and they are expecting the figure to continue to rise.

China registered total online spending of 96 billion yuan (10 billion euro) in the first quarter of the year.

Meanwhile a spokesman for Amazon.cn - the Chinese branch of US-based Amazon retail network - told the China Daily newspaper they predicted it was "only a matter of time'' before online food sales matched offline sales in China - and that the company had expanded its service to offer 8,000 different types of foods.

For the moment, though, it seems snacks such as mooncakes are proving the most popular treats. Ximi.com offers a specific snack service for white collar workers in Beijing - traditional items such as dried fish and squid and preserved fruits which are not commonly available in cafes - and says it has seen growth of 100 percent in the past year. They have 400,000 registered users and offer 200 types of snacks.

Top-sellers - how China spends online: Electronics (44.2 percent); clothing (17.4 percent); jewelry (5.8 percent); personal care (4.5 percent); food (4.1 percent); maternity and childcare (3.7 percent); others (8.6 percent).
Figures supplied by the Zero2IPO Group