Instant grocery services have become the newest growth market for popular delivery apps, as the coronavirus pandemic has made Hongkongers seek the convenience of shopping at their fingertips. Up to 73 per cent of consumers have used online platforms to buy groceries more often than before the pandemic, according to a survey by global tax consultancy KPMG. It polled 12,334 consumers worldwide, including 1,000 in Hong Kong, between May and September last year. One Hongkonger won over by instant grocery services is Kanas Chiu, who uses an app to order everything from soy sauce to dishwashing soap whenever she runs out. She said she appreciates being able to stay home taking care of her daughter while waiting for the delivery man. “I use it almost every day,” said the housewife in her 30s who lives in Sham Shui Po, in Kowloon. “Since we don’t have a domestic helper and sometimes I don’t have time to go out for groceries, I count on these delivery apps.” Chiu said when she shopped online for groceries in the past, it always meant waiting until a specific date and time for the delivery. At the height of the pandemic, it could take a week or more. She likes that the instant grocery services offer same-day delivery, with some platforms promising to come in under 30 minutes. Foodpanda, the Singapore-headquartered delivery platform, was among the first to launch “quick-commerce” in Hong Kong, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. It rolled out Pandamart in Hong Kong in late 2019, delivering groceries from its warehouses round-the-clock and as quickly as within 15 minutes. It was one of the first to introduce “quick commerce” in the city. Foodpanda managing director Ryan Lai said orders for instant groceries grew seven-fold through the pandemic, between May last year and March this year. Coronavirus pandemic got Hong Kong to embrace e-commerce, and ‘trend looks likely to stay’ “We believe the typical e-commerce experience is super competitive but it’s not enough anymore. Waiting for a day or for a couple of days is just not enough, so quick-commerce became a good differentiating advantage in this space,” he said. Covid-19 definitely helped speed up the digital transformation of Hong Kong, he added. Pandamart has 17 warehouse locations, each carrying about 4,000 types of items, ranging from fresh produce to chilled alcoholic beverages and household cleaning products. The warehouses’ reach extends to more than 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s population and the online platform aims to open three more this year. One of Hong Kong’s largest online retailers, HKTVmall, has plans for its own version of instant groceries. Its HKTV Express service is due to start in May, with the target of delivering groceries in under an hour to consumers in the main residential districts, according to a company spokeswoman. The Hong Kong-listed firm has seen strong growth, with some 415,000 unique customers making purchases on HKTVmall in March, up from 382,000 the previous month. Its gross merchandise value was HK$525 million (US$67 million) in March, down 1.1 per cent year on year but up 15.1 per cent month on month. Meanwhile, UK-listed Deliveroo had partnered with select brands to help grocery retailers develop their online and offline business together, said Brian Lo Ka-chung, Deliveroo Hong Kong’s general manager. Its partners include convenience store chain 7-Eleven, the grocery arm of British brand Marks & Spencer and Japanese retailer Don Don Donki. Lo said more customers were interested in ordering groceries over the platform and its grocery partners had seen a significant rise in transactions since introducing the service late last year. Deliveroo and Foodpanda confirmed the upward trend, but declined to provide data on the number of customers or the value of business done. “We’ve seen that new customers ordering on Deliveroo through the on-demand grocery platform have risen to similar levels as for food delivery,” Lo said. While supermarket sales steadily increased through the pandemic as people worked from home and restaurant hours were restricted, the total value of sales at traditional brick-and-mortar grocery outlets fell 8.6 per cent year on year over the same period, according to official data. Work from home, call for meals: food delivery platforms provide lifeline to empty restaurants Architect Daniel Stiensmeier, 24, said instant deliveries had been a big help given his long working hours. He has bought everything from bottled sparkling water to shampoo, rice and body wash and his order always arrives at his Causeway Bay apartment in about 30 minutes. He said the additional fees, which range from HK$5 to HK$20 per order depending on location, were worth the time and effort saved, as delivery men had to bring the heavy items up three flights of stairs to his doorstep. “It’s great to use the app because if I were to go shopping myself, it would be right after work which would mean wasting time in the queue,” he said.