2017 Gateway Canada

And we are back! Team Gateway has been hard at work again to bring the Gateway conference back to North America. Along with four other AGLA colleagues, Ariana, Qian, Alex, Mathieu, Jeff and I came to Toronto, Canada’s most populous city to tell the Alibaba story to Canadian SME’s about the growing opportunities to sell to China’s middle class.

China’s growing population and emerging middle class, which is ten times that of the Canadian population, presents a large opportunity for agribusinesses in Canada. This time at Gateway, I helped convene the break out sections for fresh food including an educational landscape of Chinese consumer buying habits and a how-to on selling to China.

In the morning, our Managing Director of Netherlands took us through the reasons why Canadian products has an excellent brand in the eyes of the Chinese consumer. In China, countries and cities themselves are becoming brands, such as Washington apples or Canadian lobsters. In Seafood, Canada ranks number one, followed by Argentina, Denmark, Vietnam and New Zealand, but in the categories of meat and fruit, there are immense opportunities for Canada to grow the export of those products to China.


Roland Palmer, MD of Netherlands takes us through the Chinese market and consumer buying habits for fresh food

Each year, China consumes 600 million pigs and seven billion chickens and the average Chinese shopper buys these items from “Tmall Supermarket”, which is the go-to online food platform that is part of the Tmall platform. Around 900 million Chinese can get next day delivery for fresh food. If we focus only on the urban areas, where density is amongst the highest in the world, China’s delivery is perhaps the most advanced in the world. For instance you can order a fresh lobster from our new Fresh grocery concept, Hema, that will be delivered to you in under 30 minutes!

In the afternoon, we showcased two merchants for their testimonials in working with Alibaba, Clearwater and Daguan E-commerce.


Daguan is a young company and began exporting cherries from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley in 2016. Over the past cherry season, Daguan has sold over 5000 boxes of Canadian cherry through Taobao in Canada to China. They established an online store at a new group-buying platform named Juhuasuan (ju.tmall.com), which operates within Taobao. Garry Chen from Daguan talked about the things that he’s learned when selling to Chinese consumers versus Canadian consumers. For instance, the packaging he uses on Taobao is extremely well printed contrasted to the packaging for consumers back in Canada. Packaging is also smaller versus the kilogram packaging that Canadian consumers are used to because the average Chinese shopper orders more frequently and thus prefers smaller quantities.

roland 3

 With the Fresh Solutions session presenters and the Daguan team

As a Canadian, it was definitely nostalgic to have come back to homeland. As someone who was born in China, and grew up abroad, it’s heartwarming to have fellow Canadians who aren’t from a Chinese background learn about the amazing things that Alibaba has been doing. At the same time, it’s amazing how much education is still needed for those outside of China. Apps that are ubiquitously used in China like Taobao, Tmall, Alipay were all things that needed to be explained to a conference attendee. I find it interesting that although the Chinese firewall disables western apps from being in China, the Chinese apps are almost unheard of in western countries. This just goes to show how much more education is needed for our team to bring the Alibaba story abroad.

Check out a recap of the event here https://alizi.la/2fNC8yw and stay tuned for Gateway 3, coming to another city near you!

Sharon Gai is a member of AGLA Class #2 and a proud Canadian. She grew up in Vancouver before attending McGill University in Montreal where she majored in International Development Studies. She’s passionate about telling the Alibaba story and bringing Gateway to more countries.  

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