Starbucks Launches Voice Order and Delivery in China With Alibaba

Jennifer Marston wrote . . . . . . . . .

Starbucks customers in China can now order just by speaking. This week, the coffee retailer launched voice ordering and delivery capability through Alibaba’s smart speaker, Tmall Genie.

According to an announcement from Starbucks, customers can now place an order through the speaker and have it delivered within a 30-minute timeframe via Alibaba’s food delivery platform, Ele.me. Users can track their order in real time and earn Starbucks rewards points. In the future, Starbucks Rewards members will also get more personalized recommendations — based on past orders, seasonal items, and other data — when using voice order.

To top it all off, there’s a Starbucks-themed Tmall Genie (pictured above) available through the Starbucks virtual store in China. Because who wouldn’t want to talk to an adorable DJing bear to order their coffee?

The move comes about a year after Starbucks and Alibaba first announced their partnership and is the latest in a series of initiatives to make Starbucks more widely available in China, one of the fastest-growing markets in the world for coffee consumption. While still a predominately tea-drinking nation, China saw a a 16 percent annual increase in coffee consumption between 2004 and 2013 — a growth set to continue over the next few years at 15 to 20 percent.

Starbucks began offering delivery in China through Ele.me in 2018, and also launched a virtual store across Alibaba apps including Taobao, Alipay, and Tmall. In addition, Starbucks now operates ghost kitchens in Alibaba’s Hema supermarkets to fulfill more delivery orders.

Unconnected from Alibaba, Starbucks this year opened an “express retail” concept store for pickup-only orders in Beijing.

These many different moves are meant to help Starbucks as it continues to compete with its main rival in China, Luckin Coffee. The latter is aggressively growing its number of physical locations across China.

More importantly, Luckin caters primarily to delivery and pickup, with many of its stores acting mostly as hubs for fulfilling these orders.

Starbucks is attempting a similar model with its Star Kitchens and express store concept. Whether adding something like voice-order capabilities makes a difference in the rivalry remains to be seen, though it certainly won’t hurt Starbucks to have a major tech giant like Alibaba in its corner as the fight for coffee dominance in China continues.

Source: The Spoon

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Plant-based ‘Meat’ Mooncakes Debut in China

Mooncakes stuffed with artificial meat will hit the market in China for the first time in September, Chongqing Morning Post reported.

The product was developed by a lab team from the Beijing Technology and Business University and vegan meat brand Starfield.

The first batch will be put on sale in Starfield outlets in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong province.

There are two kinds of artificial meat: One is vegan meat made mainly from bean protein, the other is real meat grown from animal stem cells.

The artificial meat stuffed in these mooncakes is plant-based, which has low environmental costs and can reduce wasting animal husbandry resources. It is also suitable for people with high blood sugar, high blood pressure or high blood fats to eat, according to the researchers.

The artificial meat aims to imitate real animal meat in five aspects: color, smell, taste, texture and sound, said Li Jian, who leads the university lab team. Many people don’t understand the sound component, Li said. “When we stir-fry sliced meat or deep-fry fish, the meat will produce an appetizing crackling sound. This sound is what we want to achieve with our artificial meat, together with the other aspects,” he explained.

In an online vote launched by Weibo Technology, 34.4 percent of respondents said they would like to try an artificial meat mooncake, while over 63.3 percent said they would not want to try it or would take a wait-and-see approach.

The technology of making artificial meat is more mature overseas. In China, it has yet to make much headway and is just a concept for vegetarian food, according to food industry analyst Zhu Danpeng.

Besides quality, price is also an important factor relating to the success of artificial meat in the market. The cost of producing artificial meat is not cheap at present and is even more expensive than that of ordinary meat products, said Zhu. The cost will fall as artificial meat becomes more popular, though that will take some time, he added.

Source: China Daily

How a Chinese Firm Is Using Artificial Intelligence to Zero In on Liver Cancer

Zhuang Pinghui wrote . . . . . . . . .

A Chinese genomics firm says it has found a way to detect liver cancer linked to hepatitis B months before it can be picked up by other methods.

The conclusion was based on a study by Genetron Health and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Cancer Hospital using a method called HCCscreen, which applies artificial intelligence to look for tumour-related mutations in DNA in blood.

The researchers found that the new method could pick up early signs of the cancer in people who had tested negative based on traditional alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and ultrasound examinations.

Genetron Health chief executive Wang Sizhen said early detection was important because it significantly increased the chances of survival.

“The study is a breakthrough in genomics technology and it’s likely to help hepatitis B virus carriers, whose risk of liver cancer is much higher,” Wang said.

The researchers first used AI technology to identify biomarkers common in known cases of a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC.

The team then developed the HCCscreen technique to look for those markers and used it on 331 people with hepatitis B who had tested negative for liver cancer in AFP and ultrasound exams.

Twenty-four people tested positive with HCCscreen and were tracked over eight months, with four eventually being diagnosed with early-stage liver cancer.

The four patients had surgery to remove the tumours and the other 20 in the positive group had a second HCCscreen test, with mixed results. Wang said all participants in the group of 20 would continue to be monitored.

“This is the first large-scale prospective study on early diagnosis [of liver cancer],” he said.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month.

There are about 93 million people with hepatitis B in China and carriers of the virus have a much higher risk of developing liver cancer.

Liver cancer is generally difficult to detect in its early stages, and twice-yearly ultrasounds and AFP tests for the disease are recommended for high-risk groups such as people with hepatitis B virus infections, or cirrhosis – scarring of liver tissue.

But in China, most HCC cases were detected at advanced stage, the authors of the study wrote.

According to the National Cancer Centre, 466,000 people were diagnosed with liver cancer and 422,000 died from the disease in China in 2015.

Wang said the company aimed to commercialise the technology but even then it would take time to ensure it was affordable.

“[High-risk] people need to have regular screening. This is important for public health but the technology must be affordable enough to be widespread,” Wang said. “The ultimate goal of this study is to develop a product that people in China can afford.”

Source : SCMP

China To Launch Its First Mainstream Vegan Yogurt

Maria Chiorando wrote . . . . . . . . .

The first ‘mainstream’ vegan yogurt is set to hit shelves in China in April.

Food giant Nongfu Spring created the range which reportedly took three years of research and development.

Chinese media has speculated that the product could be ‘the start of a completely new category of yogurt in the industry’.

Vegan yogurt

The range, which will include three flavors – walnut, coconut, and almond – will capitalize on the growing global demand for vegan food – a report released in 2018 by Innova Market Insights showed there was a 62 percent increase in plant-based product

“The dairy alternatives market has been a particular beneficiary of this trend,” Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, said in a statement.

“With the growing availability and promotion of plant-based options to traditional dairy lines, specifically milk beverages, and cultured products such as yogurt, frozen desserts and ice-cream.”

Something new

Speaking about the yogurt sector, she added: “In the move to offer something new, we are starting to see an increasing variety of non-soy plant-based ingredients, including cereals such as rice, oats, and barley.

“We also noticed an increase in nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, and macadamias, as well as coconut and more unusual options such as lupin, hemp and flaxseed.”

Source: Plant Based News