【Local】Weekend markets boost local food sales

Discounted rents at weekend food markets and getting healthier eating habit of Hong Kong people drag up sales of small local handmade food vendors, who mostly operate online as they cannot afford high rents of regular physical shops.

Despite of the age, more and more people desire a quality dining made with natural ingredients. However, Hong Kong people seldom know where to try or buy those products. In cooperation with Swire Property, Janice Leung Hayes, a delicacy blogger, said they would like to provide a showcase for locally made food and organic products by attracting vendors to Tong Chong Street Market. Hayes is the founder of Honestly Green, a co-organizer of the weekend market and social enterprise platform advocating local food products and food sustainability.

Weekend markets, like Tong Chong Street Market, offer a venue for local healthy food makers and sellers to gather and promote their products.

“The daily sales amount has been doubled or even tripled after joining these markets compared to only sell my products online,” said Scott Tsue, general manager of BAGOES, an online bagels vendor, who has set up booths in Tong Chong Market and Sai Kong market.

Tsue believed instant free tasting was one of the major advantages for joining the markets. This is especially true for his bagels, which have various unique favours to choose from. He said, “Customers can try different favours and decide which bagel they like most before buying.” Tasting is impossible on online sales platforms.

Another local food maker, The Nutter Company that sells handmade nut butters online, also participated in at least two pop-up stores a month in Hong Kong. Its co-founder, Simon Yuen, pointed out that pop-up markets allowed the company to collect feedback by talking to its customers. This is important for natural goods producers to improve their recipes.

“Based on our online order platform, we knew that some customers have purchased our products online after coming to the market,” said Yuen.

New trend of local natural food

Markets for handmade products are not uncommon in Hong Kong but more and more local organic and natural food makers and sellers are participating in weekend food markets, especially in Christmas and Lunar New Year holidays. During last Christmas, there were more than 12 street markets in Hong Kong. Most of them were a once-a-time market while some of them were seasonal outlets such as Tong Chong Street Market, which lured a few thousand visitors every weekend.

Weekend markets target green food lovers

Weekend street markets can be found across Hong Kong. Every district has unique groups of customers, allowing vendors to choose their location of stores. But still, foreigners are the most common group of customers as they love green and organic food and are willing to pay more.

Levain, a local natural bread seller, targets high-income customers with its no additive bread pricing at $70 to $200 per loaf. Owner of Levain said he chose markets located in the areas with a lot of office ladies, high-income residents and visitors, such as the Central and international school fairs. Its average daily sale at weekend market is about $20,000, depending on the popularity of the market. The Levain owner added, the bakery required three to four extra workers from Thursday to Saturday for preparing the weekend market sales.

Low rents attract local premium food vendors

High rents in Hong Kong discourage local food makers to open physical shops, but weekend markets with lower rents provide them an opportunity to join the physical retail market.

For instance, the discounted daily rent of Tong Chong Street Market is $200, as organizers aim to promote healthy food by offering local makers a venue with affordable rents. Due to high rents and the lack of sales outlets, people could hardly buy quality local food in stores, said Hayes.

The Tong Chong Street Market could accommodate 40 vendors each time but demand was much higher than supply, leaving a long waiting list behind, Hayes added.

Expansion of food market  

Honestly Green aims to be an incubator of environmental friendly startups to nurture more local food manufacturers. It hopes to extend the opening days of the market from only Sundays to also Saturdays.

But when asked about its plan to extend the market to other districts in Hong Kong, Hayes showed her concerns about the high cost. She believed such project is a big investment for property firms although her partner, Swire Property, shares the same vision of promoting food conscious in Hong Kong.


《The Young Financial Post 新報人財經》




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