Helekang - one of the leading players in online organic retailing in China
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
There is often the same background story to launching organic businesses in China – people looking for organic food products for the family, particularly those with children. Michelle M. Wu was one of these people. She is the founder of Helekang, a major online retailing platform for organic and ecological products in China. The company has developped quite well the last years as was the market for organic products in general in China.
(Picture: Helekang at BioFach)
The Helekang platform was set up in 2008 by Shanghai Lemeng Information Tech. Ltd. It started with only organic vegetables but gradually extended its product range to include fruit, cereals and grains, beans and other dried kitchen-cupboard necessities, meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy products, confectionery, drinks and wine, and ecological household products. Currently there are around 10,000 products on offer, a third of which are organic, and this includes both certified and non-certified products. Helekang also imports both organic and conventional products from abroad, and imported goods (not only its own imports) account for a third of all its products. (Picture: sign at the entrance of the company)
As for organic vegetables, Helekang selects products from three different suppliers, one in Shanghai and two in neighbouring provinces where the environment and water are good in the production areas. Since the new organic regulation came into force in 2012, the certified organic food products whose availability has decreased most are meat and fruit. Even today, there is still only a limited selection of certified organic fruit in China. Helekang chooses what is available but also sells imported conventional fruit.
Most goods sold by Helekang are from original producers. It puts its own private label only on imported organic products such as Spanish organic extra virgin olive oil which has obtained a Chinese organic certificate. Helekang wholesales many of its imported products in China. In Shanghai, where Helekang is based, its own logistics team dispatches deliveries daily; in Beijing, Guangdong and Fujian provinces, its divisions sell primarily milk.
In 2012, Helekang doubled its sales compared with the previous year. In the eyes of Helekang, organic products should not be expensive because they are not luxury items and the organic sector is not a gift industry. Catering for the gift market tends not to be sustainable, particularly when anti-corruption measures have been in place. Instead, organic products should be for the ordinary public who want healthy and pure products that they can afford. Only in this way can the organic market develop and grow effectively. (Pictures: some of the imported cleaners and food products that Helekang offers)
There is great demand for organic food products in China. But, with little processed organic food from domestic producers on offer and given the administrative complication of importing organic food - particularly products with a long value chain, the supply chain cannot be secured. This has affected the expansion of China’s organic market, which can be clearly seen in the lack of variety of organic products available on Helekang’s online retailing platform. Helekang would be more than happy to have everything in organic quality.
Nonetheless, due to strong demand from domestic consumers, Shanghai Lemeng is now becoming one of the leading importers and distributors of organic food and natural products in China.