China’s C-Store Kitchens Transform Focus onto Food

Ready-to-eat foods become the go-to for China’s white collar workers.

August 05, 2019

BEIJING—Where one store in a business area near Beijing sells 800 to 1,000 packaged meals at lunchtime every workday, C-stores have transformed into small kitchens for many urban workers. Reasonable prices, convenience and quality have helped c-stores take business from street vendors . Now, the Bianlifeng chain says that 80% of its customers are white collar workers.

As reported in China Daily, “The China Chain Store & Franchise Association said that last year, the sales volume of the country’s top 100 convenience store companies rose by 21.1 percent year-on-year, with an 18 percent increase in store numbers, the fastest in the retail sector.”

There are nearly 122,000 convenience stores in China, and 38% of chains said that more than 20% of daily sales came from ready-to-eat food last year. In 2017, 29% of chains reported such a proportion of ready-to-eat sales.  

The increase in demand is causing many c-stores in China to increase their ready-to-eat food offerings. A few Japanese chains in China report that 35-40% of their sales are ready-to-eat food. As more and more people are cooking less, spending more and craving convenience, c-stores are feeding into the demand—and seeing impressive results as they monitor consumer trends.

Joshua Zhang, executive vice president of Japanese c-store chain Lawson Holdings notes,
“Chinese consumers are changing very fast. Today, they like milk tea, and tomorrow they may prefer coffee. What remains unchanged is their pursuit of health and convenience.”