Trending: Food Tech and Startups in China

China has been following Western countries’ lead in terms of technology and development for years, but they're catching up and undergoing rapid development in nearly every sector, including food. Though China's food industry developed over thousands of years, it is rapidly advancing in line with Western competition and influence. 

With over 53% smart phone penetration (less than 10% behind the U.S.), China has leapfrogged over the PC era directly into the mobile world. Unique mobile based services and food startups are paving the way for the global future of food. With that in mind, we’ve highlighted a few trending food companies from our Eastern counterparts, including an exclusive interview with a representative from Haowa.  

Huijiachifan (home-cooked)

Huijiachifan (home-cooked) is a mobile app that encourages anyone with a passion for cooking to share their favorite home-cooked meals with the masses. Non-professional cooks prepare meals from the comfort of their household kitchens while earning extra income. Customers can sample authentic, traditional flavors from hundreds of different cooks wanting to share their prized recipes. 

Tan Jing, co-founder of the home-cooked app, shared insight into the development of the company exclaiming, "Great ideas don’t become reality without hard work. We have marketing teams that spread the word about our platform through different neighborhoods and invite people to sign up. When we find great chefs, we have an extensive sign up process including safety, health and identity inspections. It takes about one week for a kitchen to go online." With a reliable vetting process and a completely mobile platform, this company promotes home cooking, healthy and authentic food, and empowers household cooks to showcase their culinary skills. 

Haochushi (Good cook)

In contrast to the home cooked meals offered by Huijiachifan, the Haochushi (Good cook) was designed as a platform for professional chefs. Founded in Shanghai in 2014, the app brings restaurant quality food to the dinner table. Haochushi connects professional chefs to customers, who want meals prepared at home.

This may sound like a luxury service, but Haochushi is dedicated to making each meal an affordable experience, with prices as low as 79 yuan ($13) plus ingredients or 99 yuan ($16) for six large dishes. Customers get the quality of a restaurant meal, fresh ingredients, and a close up of the cooking process without ever having to leave their house. 

Caiguanjia (Vegetable Butler)

Living in Boston, we know the challenges of buying fresh produce and finding an easy way to carry it all home. In Shanghai, the largest city in China, the congestion of Boston's rush hour is amplified ten-fold and buying vegetables, fruits, and meat from local markets can be time consuming and difficult. Caiguanjia (Vegetable Butler) provides a convenient way for customers to purchase their weekly produce, enabling them to grocery shop straight from their phones.

Although online shopping has been available in China for years, the lack of infrastructure and adequate transportation, compromises food quality during transportation. Caiguanjia solves this problem by maintaining the cold-chain throughout delivery process.

Haowa (Very Good)

Haowa shares the belief that modern technology can solve food system challenges. Based in Chengdu, China, the company reduces restaurant operational costs and create a faster, more customized experience. This B to B app allows restaurants to receive orders and process payments on their phones or ipad.

With such densely populated cities, it's not uncommon for waiting lines to extend out into the streets in front of popular restaurants, but Haowa's electronic wait-in-line system has greatly reduced these lines.  

Though they have a strong B to B platform, Howa also maintains a business to customer model as well, offering a call center and online customer service with professional reviews of participating restaurants.  Branchfood intern, Michael Zhao, had the pleasure of interviewing Han Na, Haowa’s public relations director, who explained more details about the app. (Note: Translated from Chinese to English)

What factors in China’s food industry led to the creation of your company’s Haowa management system? 

In 2015, there were 5,200,000 restaurant related companies, a 30% increase from the previous year, and consumer market valuation was about 3 trillion yuan (about 450 billion dollars), a 10% increase from last year. Since 2010, because of the online influence of the restaurant industry, restaurants now face three serious problems while transitioning to the new online model: High payroll cost, high raw material cost, and high rent cost. 

Can you explain briefly how Haowa’s online management system helps restaurants save on operational costs?

We aim for our software to maintain the company’s own brand, while we help them construct an online management system. Customers can order, use a discount code, and pay with scanning bar code at the restaurant. Attendants and chefs have better work efficiency because of organized order forms and online payments. Managers are able to track inventory, financials, and the supply chain first-hand and in real time. At the same time, they can receive customer feedback on employees.

Are there examples of success in terms of revenue among your users?

In Zhejiang province we have a partnering user. In their restaurant there are about 10 people in the kitchen. We analyzed their situation and now with the help of the smart management system they only need 5-6 people to do the work that was done by 10 employees. Other restaurants who used our products are also able to save on payroll.

Online and mobile technology is changing the Chinese food industry in many ways. These technological advancements are bringing convenient, affordable, and quality food options to millions of people in cities and rural parts of the country. We look forward to seeing these startups grow and perhaps using them in the United States one day soon. 


Guest post led by Michael Zhao