Chinese Markets Change to Meet Customer Demands

At a wet market in Guangzhou, China people buy fresh vegetables and meat products.

Rachel Dung with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) says, "Traditionally, we like fresh food. In the old days, we still have live chicken in the wet market as well, but for the sanity thing we can't do that now. So, actually, people like to have fresh products, especially for the seafood."

In a farm broadcaster trip to China, Dung guides Americans through a wet market in the southeast China, port city. Live seafood is on display and slaughtered at stands, picked out by customers shopping for dinner.

Dung says, "You can say maybe every community have a one wet market nearby. Usually walking distance."

It's a traditional method of getting food for the Chinese, who still prefer to buy daily groceries.

Dung says, "Take my mom as example, she would go to the market to buy meat and veggies for dinner. Every day."

The seafood is as fresh as possible, several stands let the customer touch and point out the live fish they want. The vendors chop, gut, and package the fish in a matter of moments. Other food options include turtles, frogs, or even snakes.

Even with all this available, Dung says it's not quite a farmers market, "It's a little bit different, because our wet markets open every day so the consumers can come to buy their daily foods such as meat, vegetables, and fruit."

Also many of the small merchants here are not farmers, they buy their products from the wholesale market.

However, the trend of wet markets is changing. A new generation of urbanized families are preferring to move to better preserved foods and have the income to buy in bulk.

At the Ole Supermarket, tucked inside of a mall, groceries are bought almost exactly the way they are in the U.S.

Dung says the next generation is taking over, "I think it's traditional for younger people, they would like to choose frozen products or chilled products of course, we know that for frozen meat and chilled meat, it's actually a more cleaner and sanity is better."

More options and packaged foods means less time spent in a store or on a bus.

And here, Dung says they are trying to persuade Chinese to buy American-made food, "The importers and the distributers just buy directly from the exporters and then they sell directly to the Ole super market. And what USMEF do is help them just promote."

It's part of helping Chinese grocery stores better market U.S. products. They have trainings, seminars, and pamphlets. All to inform Chinese customers about American meat.

Dung says a popular way to showcase American products are free samples, "For Chinese people, they don't know much about U.S. beef, U.S. pork. If we just give them to taste, then know that, wow, the quality is really good and it really helps the sales."

Consistency is key, Dung adds, with support, supermarkets like Ole will give away samples every weekend.