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Richmond company is changing how people shop for specialized Chinese groceries

Chinese immigrants can now access hometown food throughout the Lower Mainland.

Helen Tam is happy she can finally buy a wide variety of special Asian products such as Chinese bayberries, jelly oranges, mangosteens, heart-shaped lemons and portunidae crabs all at one Richmond-based online shop.

Many of the items sold at Luniu Mall, an online Asian food distribution platform, can be hard to find in other Lower Mainland supermarkets.

Since Tam, a Richmond resident, started ordering groceries from Luniu Mall three years ago, she has barely visited a local supermarket.

“On this platform, I can find all kinds of Asian foods and snacks that I crave and that I can’t find elsewhere, including some ‘internet celebrity’ products that are trending in Asia,” said Tam, who orders from Luniu two to three times a week.

“The unique and wide selection of products have made it a one-stop shop for me.”

Luniu Mall, which launched in 2018 selling Asian groceries, sells exclusively online.

Since day one, its founder and CEO Leo Lu’s goal has been to bring unique, trendy Asian products to newcomers in Canada.

“Many immigrants, especially young people, are looking for the same food and snacks here as what they would have had in their hometown. We can sell the products here almost simultaneously as they are launched in Asia,” said Lu.

Instead of getting the products from local wholesalers like most other supermarkets do, Luniu selects many of its products directly from the Asian market and brings them here to Canada.

“This business model gives us the unique advantage of being able to select whatever products we want to introduce to the market instead of relying on local wholesalers,” Lu said.

“If customers tell us there are any newly released food or snacks they want us to bring to Canada, or if there are any childhood snacks they want to try again, we will go to find them.”

With the popularity of Chinese social sharing platforms like Little Red Book, more and more young Chinese Canadians are looking for “internet celebrity” products, Lu added.

Lu started farming in Langley in 2014, growing unique Asian-style vegetables, such as spiky cucumbers, that were not prevalent in supermarkets at the time.

But as it proved challenging to sell all his vegetables to supermarkets, he started selling them on WeChat, a popular Chinese app. Other businesses started asking him to help sell their products on his platform, and that’s when he launched Luniu.

The business saw exponential growth during the pandemic and sales have stayed high ever since and have now expanded to Victoria.

“Keeping up with trends and finding unique products are always key to standing out in the market. We will continue to search for unique foods and bring them to the local market,” said Lu.

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