The Covid-19 pandemic did not usher in online meat shopping, but it was instrumental in driving its rapid growth. Limited by movement restrictions and lockdowns, many consumers turned to the internet to buy practically everything, including raw meat.
Realizing the potential offered by online sales, many retailers jumped on board. Meat producers, who previously did not focus on retail, found they could now directly offer their products to consumers, effectively cutting out the middleman.
While no official data is available on how much online meat sales have grown, no one will argue that it has. Scroll through Facebook and Instagram and one is likely to find several advertisements for online meat retailers, some well-known, others not at all.
But there is a downside. The most obvious is that meat is a highly perishable commodity. Hence safety is a big issue. Many Asian consumers still like to touch, smell, and see the meat to check for freshness.
Unfortunately, when buying online, consumers will not see the product they ordered until it has been delivered. Furthermore, with so much online competition, how can retailers convince buyers to purchase from them?
“Convincing consumers of product freshness is important, yet challenging,” Bap Dang, who runs an online meat shop in Ho Chi Minh City, told Asian Agribiz.
Ms Dang takes photos of her products in a ‘realistic’ fashion, meaning she does not use edited promotional images.
“I take photos of the products just as they are to give customers an idea of how the products look when they reach their homes,” she said.
She also shoots videos as she prepares and packs the goods for delivery.
“Comments from other customers go a long way in convincing other customers to buy from you,” Ms Dang remarked. “Many buyers rely on customer reviews to make purchasing decisions. Some also ask for pictures of previous customers.”
In Indonesia, word-of-mouth plays a big role in increasing online traffic.
Alvin Kosnanto, who owns Akos Farm in Solo, Central Java, sells his pork products online.
“The first buyers of our pork were our close friends,” he said. “Then they told their friends about the quality and safety of our pork. They also shared their positive comments with us, and in turn, we shared these on our social media. In online selling, reviews from previous buyers are important to attract new customers.”
He explained that they have not put any information on their packaging. However, customers wanting assurance about the safety of their products are encouraged to contact them directly by phone or social media.
“When they do, we tell them about how we raise our pigs without beta-agonist and AGP and antibiotics, how we slaughter the animals, how we process the carcass into portioned cuts, and how we pack and deliver the meat.”
Gilbert Wantalangi, Director of Hartman pork processing in Manado, North Sulawesi, said posting about the quality of their pork and showing how the meat is processed is important. Similarly, they also post testimonies of satisfied customers.
In the Philippines, many of the big retailers have their delivery fleet to ensure that the meat arrives as fresh as possible to customers. The fleet is equipped with coolers filled with ice to keep the meat chilled or prevent frozen meat from thawing.
For smaller retailers who use third-party delivery services, preparing and packing the product properly is crucial.
Thelma Sandoval, a small online retailer offering not just fresh meat but freshly processed products like native sausages and cured meats, told Asian Agribiz that with so much competition online, she has to ensure that her products get to her customers “fresh and unspoiled.”
To do that, she uses styrofoam containers to pack the products. She keeps the products in the freezer and prepares them for shipment only when she gets a notification that the delivery driver has arrived.