Carrot then stick: Alibaba’s fresh produce arm Hema under fire for changing product labels

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Hou Yi, the CEO of Hema, acknowledged the label-changing saga on his personal Weibo account.
Hou Yi, the CEO of Hema, acknowledged the label-changing saga on his personal Weibo account.

Related tags: Alibaba, Label, Supermarket

Hema, Alibaba’s fresh products arm, has come under fire for selling packets of carrots with altered in-stock date.

The label-changing act was spotted at Hema Daning supermarket branch in Shanghai. The manager in charge of the supermarket was eventually fired six days after an inspection was conducted.  

The saga could be traced to Nov 15, when a shopper spotted a staff changing the labels of the in-stock dates for a packet of carrots. The carrots were from the brand “Chongming”. 

The shopper took a closer look and found that the packets of carrots, which were initially labelled with the in-stock dates as Nov 9, 10, and 11, were all replaced with a new label, with in-stock dates labelled as Nov 15.

The shopper later reported the issue to the administration of market regulation at the district of Jing’an, Shanghai.

Law enforcers later conducted an inspection at the supermarket on the same day. The in-charge of the supermarket eventually admitted that the staffs have changed the product labels.

The issue involved 180 boxes of carrots. As of Nov 14, a total of 107 boxes of carrots had been sold, while 73 more boxes were left in the inventory.

The law enforcers requested the in-charge to remove all products with changed labels. 

Disciplinary actions were also taken against the manager.

In his Weibo post​, Hou Yi, the CEO of Hema, said that the manager in charge of the supermarket “has to bear managerial responsibilities” ​and that “(he was) fired today.”

Hou added that he has been “feeling down for the past few days”,​ and that as a result of “recent events, including the label-changing saga, I have seen an increase in the number of negative feedback from the consumers.

“We have started to conduct inspection in every stores, to further improve the standards of operation. From today, we will implement the strictest punishment on anyone who has acted against our customer-centric principle.”

Hema is a supermarket chain under Alibaba. Some of its main selling points include live cooking demonstration and the sale of a wide variety of fresh products.

Consumers – the best inspectors?

To improve the store’s operation, Hema has invited consumers to join the firm as quality inspectors.

In another Weibo post, Hou announced that he would need two quality inspectors for each of the Hema supermarket located in Shanghai. There are a total of 22 Hema supermarkets in Shanghai.

The inspectors are required to conduct spot-check at least twice per week, record relevant details, and report cases that are not in line with the company’s objectives to Hou himself.

Hema has received more than 100 emails from interested individuals within two hours of the announcement, Xinhua reported. 

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