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Asian American online grocery stores booming in US

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-07-10 09:40

A delivery worker (right) of Fantuan, one of North America's largest Chinese and Asian food delivery app service providers, takes food from a restaurant in Vancouver, Canada. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Asian American online grocery stores and delivery services in the United States are growing and reshaping eating habits, as more rare food from the East becomes available in the West with the click of a mouse.

The stores Weee!, Yamibuy and Fantuan, with many others, have seen tremendous growth as they vie to become the leading destination for Asian food, beverages and groceries.

Weee!, an online grocery store, sells food from several cultures, including Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, delivering fresh groceries to 18 states and dry goods to 48 states.

Since the site launched in 2015, it has specialized in getting hard-to-find and authentic ingredients for customers. The Weee! app serves hundreds of thousands of households, the business said.

Founded by Larry Liu, the company is headquartered in Fremont, California. Most of the platform's customers are Asian, including many first-generation immigrants. In 2021, the private, venture capital-backed company was valued at $2.8 billion, according to Forbes.

Weee! also markets itself on WeChat to appeal to Chinese customers and encourages its shoppers to upload videos of meals they made with the company's food.

Nielsen researchers found that Asian Americans, native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the US collectively have $1.3 trillion in buying power or disposable income.

The online grocery stores serving this specific demographic are able to target the estimated 2.38 million Chinese people who live in the US as of 2021 and nearly 300,000 Chinese students in the country, figures from the US State Department show.

Fantuan is the largest food delivery app focused on Chinese-speaking customers in North America and Australia. Its annual revenue was forecast to be $100 million last year, Tech Crunch reported.

While the app initially focused on restaurant food delivery, it is now shifting to grocery delivery services.

Crystal Li, public relations director at Fantuan, told China Daily: "Online grocery delivery and errands service are both operating in major cities. In New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other metropolitan areas, we have the in-store deals feature similar to Groupon; a user can purchase coupons on the app and use directly in store."

Li said the app has more than 3.6 million users in the US, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

"Customers include immigrants, international students, local Asians, for example American-born Chinese/Canadian-born Chinese, tourists and whoever enjoys authentic Asian cuisine," she said.

Fantuan, based in Vancouver, Canada, closed a $40 million funding round in December amid a venture capital-backed push for growth.

In January, it acquired Chowbus, another food delivery business, aimed at "solidifying Fantuan's leading position in the US Asian delivery market", Li said.

For decades, Chinatowns across the country were the key destinations for the community and others for noodles, meat, fish, herbs and other food.

But shopping habits for everyone changed drastically amid the pandemic, when many preferred to shop online and have items delivered.

Website Yamibuy is an online Asian snack retailer. It was founded by Alex Zhou, who arrived in Kansas from Dalian, in China's Liaoning province, in 2007 to study engineering. The company is believed to be worth more than $100 million.

As a student, Zhou yearned for some of his favorite snacks from home but found it hard to find them locally. That inspired him to create the website that sells the food that he grew up eating.

He told Inc.com that he hopes his Los Angeles-based site honors Chinese culture. At least 75 percent of his customers are East Asian, but it is also popular with those from other cultures.

Li said the overall growth of food delivery apps and online Asian grocery stores comes as customers "seek comfort in the flavors of their hometowns, even while far from home".

Agencies contributed to this story.

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