Meicai: China’s Unicorn Farm-to-Table Startup

Oct 5, 2019 | Biz, China, KariA, Taste

East Asia DeskKari.Amarnani author

Doesn’t food taste better when it’s fresh off the earth?

Behold one of the newest economic trends circulating the globe at the moment: farm-to-table. Not only does it factor in major agricultural development but it also functions as a social movement. For years, people have wondered whether this would be a fad or a revolutionary emergence to the restaurant industry. Either way, farm-to-table stays. Its importance shines a light on the advantages of healthy living in a way that promotes growth on all sides.

Farm-to-table is a direct relationship between a specific farm and a restaurant. Food served within the restaurant originates straight from the farm without the participation of markets, distributors and processing plants. The best part is that satisfaction is mutual. The restaurants serve farm-fresh delicacies while farmers get to reap the benefits of their goods with a profit that no market could reach. Not to mention, farmers enjoy knowing that their food will be treated well. Most items are delivered to restaurants as soon as they are finished harvesting— this promotes freshness of the crops at a convenience.

The earliest instance of farm-to-table happened in 1986. Xu Jiyuan opened Xujia Courtyard in Chengdu, and within the area was a space allocated to harvesting crops for the hotel’s menu. The agricultural space was barely an acre of land, but guests expressed appreciation towards knowing where their food was coming from. A travel agent visiting the hotel witnessed this and encouraged him to expand and promote the business further. Currently, Xujia Courtyard’s harvesting space has grown to over six acres of land and the accommodation rakes in a million guests in a year.

The Rise of Meicai:

Grocery shopping just got a whole lot interesting. Originating from China, Meicai is a website-slash-phone application that allows users to get produce delivered from a farm straight to the comfort of their homes. It was established in 2014 by owner Liu Chuanjun. His inspiration for the trade came during his years as an adolescent where he noticed 500 grams of corn being sold for 90 cents in a wet market— a price that was retained from 10 years prior, and yet the cost of harvesting corn rises. Then on, he declared to be an agent of change. With Meicai, he has very well achieved it. 

Meicaidirectly translates to ‘beautiful vegetable’ and its mission is simple: to provide “time-saving, labor-saving, money-saving and worry-free raw materials”. And they are doing it. Meicai assures that the harvests reach the location within 12 to 18 hours after the order has been placed. Afterwards, users may rate the quality and performance of the application, giving recognition when it is deserved. 

Its consumers range from individuals to 10 million restaurants. The company is valued at over $7 billion. Amidst fame and riches, Liu manages to keep a humble heart. When he visits home, he tends to the fields with his family. No matter how big the company gets, there is humility and love in his intentions for the business. I have a deep passion for the land,” he says.Innovation comes from being obsessed with a problem for a long time, trying to solve it every step of the way.How inspirational is that?

China Approves: Economic Gain at its Finest

Finding a meaningful balance in the gap between China’s urban hubs and its rural and impoverished demographics has been on the country’s to-do list for decades. With farm-to-table thriving, the Chinese government was quick to discern the economic advantages of keeping it within the nation. One of China’s biggest issues, income inequality, gets a massive punch to the face with the new connect of big cities and destitute towns. 

Having the world around you dictating your menu is a beautiful thing to happen. Though it is filled with economic complexities, one thing is absolutely certain: people are happy and healthy. And isn’t that all we can really ask for as human beings?