French-native and mother of two young girls, Laure Perriot has been on the front lines in the battle for safe food for the past three years. As the Interim CEO of popular online grocery store FIELDS China, Laure has tasted both the good and the bad in the world of Chinese food. Laure tells us about all things heavenly to eat over cake and coffee.
Hey Laure, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. First tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in Shanghai?
I’m French and turning 40 this year. Over those years, I’ve lived and worked not only in France but also the UK, the Netherlands – and now China.
My partner – also French – works for a famous European cosmetics brand. When he was offered the opportunity to relocate to Shanghai a few years ago we upped sticks and, with our two young daughters in tow, stepped onto the plane. Quite a lifestyle change!
How did FIELDS start life?
I’ve been with the company for three years but it actually started life in 2009 – one of the very first online grocery stores catering to expats.
Around then, there were lots of food scares in China – the one everyone remembers is the tragedy surrounding melamine-tainted milk in 2008. As a concerned parent of a young son, our American founder Steve Liang naturally shared the concerns of every family – and he decided to do something about it.
Luckily, Steve is also a foodie and back then he became convinced that he could find great, safe food – which he went on and did. But he also discovered that no one was connecting the brilliant farmers and producers who he met with those concerned families and individuals.
That was really how it began – and that’s essentially what we’re still doing today. We’re upfront when we say we want to support a new generation of producers here in China – producers that are investing in doing things the right way. We’re a business of course, at the end of the day. But we like to think that we’re more than just that.
How do you ensure your food is safe?
To start with, we work very closely with our suppliers and local farmers. We pay them a fair price for their produce when they’ve done things in the right way. When companies pressure producers to sell at a lower price, that’s when they’re tempted – often forced – to cut corners. But we say to our farmers: we’re not interested in the cheapest, we’ll pay the price for the effort and work you’ve put in.
And, unlike other companies, we don’t own our own farm. That means if we’re not satisfied with the quality of a certain supplier, we simply walk away. If we owned the farm we wouldn’t be able to do that – if quality levels suddenly dipped, or if something went wrong environmentally, something out of our control, we simply wouldn’t be able to do that.
Of course, we also only work with suppliers who are properly certified and have all the correct paperwork and licenses under Chinese law – which many companies don’t have. As a result of this, we may miss out on selling a few products but this guarantees the safe foundation of all our food.
What sets you apart from all the other online grocery options available on the market right now?
I feel rather proud to work for the company that originally carved out the market space for this fiercely competitive industry. And the big thing that really sets us apart today is the heavyweight backing and support we have.
We began life like any start-up, with a huge chance of failure! Somehow we made it work – smiley – and last May a new company came onboard as our majority shareholder. That company is called Sun Art Retail Group, half French and half Taiwanese-owned. Sun Art is the biggest bricks and mortar food retailer in China and they could have invested in any one of our competitors. They chose us. With their backing, things like maintaining the highest levels of quality control – for example, we now have our own laboratory to test food in-house – and constantly improving our operations becomes far, far easier. And I think those benefits are passed onto our customers, in terms of ease-of-mind.
What future plans do you have for FIELDS?
As anyone living and shopping in China today knows, everything happens on your mobile phone! We already have an app and a dedicated mobile version of our website, but if you’ve ever tried it, it should be pretty clear to you that we can improve there – a lot! We’re always keeping one eye on the latest trends and technology too. We want to be ahead of the curve.
And of course, we’re always trying to find that latest, most exciting products out there. That’s our day-to-day job.
What advice would you have for would-be entrepreneurs in China?
Go for it! That said, you really have to make sure that you follow government regulations every step of the way – especially if you’re handling sensitive produce like food. Don’t be tripped up by not having the right paperwork from the beginning. The more you grow, the harder it will be to get your house in order. So start out right – you’d be surprised how many businesses don’t.
When you do get a moment to yourself, where do you like to eat?
I love Japanese food! I’d eat sushi and sashimi every day of the week if I could. (My partner and kids wouldn’t allow it though.) I also love going to VUE bar for the stunning, erm, view.
For those of us who have never ordered from FIELDS before, which items are must-tries?
Our customers like our fresh salmon, which we cut-to-order in-house, to ensure maximum taste, texture and quality.
Everyone at FIELDS is also quite excited by our new American-style bacon – we worked exclusively with a black pig farmer to perfect it.
Personally, I always have French cider, Comte cheese and Duck Magret in my basket. But then I’m French.
FIELDS is a popular online grocery store for safe, quality food in China. FIELDS stocks fresh, organic fruit and veg, imported and domestic meat and seafood, plus essential pantry items from home. Order before 5 pm in Shanghai and benefit from same-day delivery with free delivery for orders over 200 RMB. A new customer? Great – you’ll receive a free gift with your first order!
FIELDS is celebrating its 7th Anniversary, running from April 1 – 22. Shop during this time and you automatically get entered into a lucky draw where the top prize is a four-night stay in Taiwan! Also take advantage of cut-price deals, with some products discounted by 70%, claim free products, win prizes and more!