About eurasiaconsult

I am passionate about many things, but the top three are: China, food and human organizing processes. I started learning Chinese when I was 14, spontaneously. In the end this resulted into a PhD in Arts (Leiden University; 1986), 10 years of working and living experience in China as a representative of a Dutch firm and a marriage with a Chinese partner (1984). During my work in a company (Gist-brocades, now part of DSM) and as an independent consultant, I became fascinated with organization theory. This has led to a second PhD in Business Administration (Erasmus University Rotterdam; 2001). I am currently combining both interests in a long-term research project studying Chinese entrepreneurship, with a number of Chinese partners. From the day I joined the company, I picked up an interest in food, not just the final product, but also how it is produced, with an emphasis on ingredients and formulation. Once more combining that interest with my China passion, I became an avid student of the cultural and societal function of food. In this blog, I hope to blend all those ingredients into a savoury soup about China, the Chinese food industry and how the organization of that industry differs from the West.

Savoury ice cream in China – where East meets West

Temperatures are rising rapidly in China and that is traditionally the signal for the ice cream industry to increase production. However, ice cream is one of the products the consumption of which has increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2020, when virtually all Chinese were confined to their homes with only very limited opportunities to go out. Convenient foods like instant noodles and snack food like nuts and seeds reported year-on-year increases up to more than 100%. The increase in ice cream consumption was less spectacular, but still 20% – 30%.

However, the most interesting development in the Chinese ice cream scene is not just the increase in consumption, but the growing interest in savoury flavours. Until recently, ice cream was typically a sweet to very sweet treat. Now, the most peculiar flavoured ice creams are appearing all over the country. Can you imagine enjoying scoop after delicious scoop of ice cream laced with: seaweed, shredded meat, onion rings, etc.? Curious? Go to China this summer to try them out, one by one. This development is so sudden and overwhelming, that I am not adding this news to my earlier post on ice cream, but dedicating a special post to it. This will not be a show window of who makes what. As usual, I will give you a good look into what is happening in this market.

Chives and shred meat

I have introduced shred meat or meat floss in an earlier post on Chinese meat products. I already noted there that it can be used as an ingredient in various foods. Here it is combined with chopped spring onions. If you can keep the taste of fresh spring onions, this combination might actually work very well with a suitable ice cream flavour.

Herbal tea

As noted in my post on Chinese drinks, I introduced herbal tea (often referred to as ice tea in Chinese) as a type of beverage derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It has become extremely popular in China during recent years, so why not make it into a popsicle? The design of the packaging reflects the ‘traditional’ nature of this product.

Hot and spicy

After my introduction, you undoubtedly expect a chili flavoured variety, so here it is. The packaging promises a lot of fire. I like chili chocolate (the mild type), so I expect to like this too.

Stinky toufu

Toufu, bean curd, is known very well in the Western world, as a versatile food ingredient and an alternative to meat. Stinky toufu doesn’t sound very nice, but refers to a kind of black fermented toufu that is fried and sold as a snack at street stalls in various parts of China. A traditional hot snack in winter is now also available as a cold snack in summer.

A cold hot pot

The last, but most spectacular, type that I want to introduce in this post is hot pot ice cream. Chinese love to eat hot pot, at home and in restaurants. You can throw almost any food in the boiling water, retrieve it when done, dip it in a sauce, and savour it. This ice cream comes in a pot, with a wafer a the lid, and laced with chopped vegetables and seaweed, topped with a layer of shred meat.

There are more types and undoubtedly even more will appear. I may add the ones that I find most striking later.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

The most popular food and beverage brands in China in 2020

Chnbrand compiles information about the popularity of the most common brands in a large range of consumer products, including several foods and beverages. The data are collected from a number of sources, including the online platforms like JD or Tmall. While most Western market surveys still concentrate on market share of brands, Chinese research is refocusing attention to brand popularity. This difference reflects the Universalist and Specific nature of Western culture as opposed to the more Particularist and Diffuse Chinese culture.

Chnbrand has published its lists for 2020 in April of that year. In this blog, I have collated the most important food and beverage types.

The following list shows the top 5 instant noodle brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Chef Kong 730.5 1
UniPresident 436.1 2
Jinmailang 354.7 3 +2
Fumanduo 340.2 4 -1
Laiyitong 339.4 5 -1

 

The following list shows the top 5 nuts/seeds brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Three Squirrels 720.8 1
Liangpin Puzi (Bestore) 447.6 2
Bee & Cheery 431.1 3
Qiaqia 354.9 4
Lyfen 293.7 5 +1

 

The following list shows the top 5 edible oil brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Jinlongyu 680.7 1
Luhua 497.7 2
Fulinmen 428.5 3
Hujihua 335.4 4
Duoli 313.6 5

 

The following list shows the top 5 soy sauce in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Haitian 670.4 1
Lee Kum Kee 465.3 2
Jiajia 342.9 3 +1
Totole 337.5 4 -1
Chubang 330.1 5 +2

 

The following list shows the top 5 vinegar brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Haitian 589.0 1
Hengshun 433.5 2
Shuita 348.6 3
Baoning 310.1 4 +1
Donghu 297,7 5 -1

 

The following list shows the top 5 infant formula brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Mead Johnson 452.0 1 +1
Abbott 376.9 2 +1
Feihe 369.4 3 new
Yili 367.3 4 +1
Wyatt 363.7 5 +1

 

The following list shows the top 5 pure fruit juice brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Huiyuan 721.3 1
Weiquan 417.0 2
Nongfu Spring 315.7 3 +2
Big Lake 287.2 4 -1
Dole 266.9 5 -1

 

The following list shows the top 5 tea drink brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Chef Kong 692.4 1
UniPresident 467.8 2
Wahaha 395.2 3
Daliyuan 330.6 4
Nongfu Spring 316.7 5

 

The following list shows the top 5 yoghurt brands in the Chnbrand Brand Strength Index of 2020

Brand Index Rank Change
Mengniu 551.1 1
Yili 513.3 2
Bright 405.8 3 +1
Ambrosial 343.4 4 -1
Guanyiru 343.4 5 +1

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

Pink is the colour of spring and hope for 2020 in China

Spring has arrived in a world that is still in the grip of the COVID-19 epidemic. However, the epidemic is clearly on its retreat in China and the nation’s food and beverage suppliers are celebrating this with an outburst of pink-coloured products. This blog does not require a lot of explanation; the pictures speak for themselves. Moreover, this post is a good overview of China’s most popular foods and drinks at this moment.

Domestic brands

Mengniu Dairy

Yili Dairy

Shipin Puzi (nuts, seeds, etc.)

Xiangpiaopiao, the top manufacturer of the immensely popular milk tea

Bee & Cheery (Baicaowei) (snacks, candy)

Rio (cocktails)

Hsufuchi (candy, biscuits)

International brands

A commendable number of international brands is participating in this pink spring campaign.

Starbucks

Nestlé

Dove

Glico

Oreo

Lay’s

Hoegaarden

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

What Chinese food lovers love most

There are different Chinese expressions for people who love food in Chinese (as there are in English). A classic, more highbrow, term is meishijia, literally: ‘a person knowledgeable of good food’. This term is close to the English concept of gourmet. People like this do cook, but prefer to indulge in the better restaurants. The not only have good taste, but also do not lack of cash to fund their likings. In recent years, the term chihuo has become popular. It literally means ‘eat merchandise’. As I prefer an English translation over keeping a Chinese word untranslated, I will use the equally popular English term ‘foodie’ as the, more or less, equivalent for chihuo.

Like Western foodies, their Chinese counterparts do not just like to eat because they crave food, but because they have an interest in new flavours and textures, foods that are linked to things that are fashionable in other sectors of life, like art. They are focused on convenience and leisure foods, but although do not necessarily reject junk food, they are especially interested in novel foods that are ready to eat or at least easy to prepare, but are also healthier than the traditional street food. Attractive packaging is also valued.

Chinese foodies can be unexpectedly traditional in their taste. In many posts of this blog, I have mentioned the special status attached to imported food, which often has a special section in the larger Chinese supermarkets. The novel foods that Chinese food bloggers introduce are often improved, i.e. better packed, more nutritious, versions of traditional Chinese foods. In fact, you can get a good impression of what Chinese foodies like by surfing to the Trends page of my blog. All items introduced there have been taken from the accounts of Chinese food bloggers.

That page is serviced irregularly. I post a product that strikes me as interesting.  Recently (12/3/2020), Tmall, one of China’s leading online shops, has published a Top 20 Products like most by chihuo. I will share that list with you here, with a short explanation of each item. It will give you a valuable insight in what Chinese foods buy online now. The only point for attention in interpreting this list is the possible influence of the corona virus epidemic on this list. I will take it for granted here. Whenever Tmall publishes an update, we will be able to compare the new list with the one introduced here.

  1. River-snail noodles; a dish from Guangxi made from pickled bamboo shoots, dried turnip, fresh vegetables and peanuts and served in a spicy noodle broth flavoured with river snails.
  2. Turkey noodles; these are actually ordinary instant noodles originating from South Korea, so quite spicy. The Chinese media have shown contests in turkey noodle eating in 2019, which is probably the reason for the popularity of this product. Chinese love games and contests.
  3. Cherries; mind that the Chinese term here is chelizi (a transliteration of the English word) and not yingtao, the regular Chinese word. I have not (yet) detected a difference between berries offered in China under the name chelizi and those marketed as yingtao, but the former are praised a rare treasures. Well, as long as it sells.
  4. Instant noodles; I guess these are all instant noodles, minus the turkey noodles.
  5. Self-heating pots; these are ready to eat foods that can heat up by themselves through a chemical reaction started by squeezing the bottom.
  6. Spicy strips; this is real junk food. They are strip made from a starchy product mixed with chili. Reports have been published exposing the bad average quality of the hot strips, but they remain popular snacks.
  7. Self-heating hot pot; this is a special type of self-heating pot, emulating the popular hot pots eating in restaurants all over China. These usually are soups with chunks of meat, fish and vegetables.
  8. Hot and sour glass noodles; glass noodles are made from starch rather than flour; they are flavoured with pickled vegetables and chili.
  9. Boneless chicken claws; chicken claws are a regular item in the Cantonese dim sum; boneless prepared chicken claws are easier to eat as a snack.
  10. Hot pot stock; I already mentioned above that hot pot is immensely popular; hot pot restaurants and now also many seasoning companies, are producing chunks of fat with all the seasoning in it; just throw it in your pot at home, heat it, and have a feast.
  11. Strawberries; like the cherries above, a berry regarded as a rare delicacy.
  12. Milk tea; this fashion has started in Taiwan, entered China in the South, but has now also reach the North; milk tea comes in an endless array of flavours, and is often spiced up with bits of dried fruit, chunks of jelly, etc.
  13. Potato crisps; no comments needed.
  14. Nuts; same; this category has been made famous by the products and marketing campaigns of Three Squirrels, introduced in several posts of this blog.
  15. Custard tart; this is an example of a reasonably traditional product that has suddenly become fashionable; the custard tart (danda) is a Portuguese influence on the Cantonese dim sum. In case you didn’t know: Macau used to be a Portuguese colony. This is the second dim sum in this list that has gained national popularity.
  16. Ice cream; no comments needed.
  17. Chocolate; ditto.
  18. Hand-pulled pancake; this is plain version of the onion pancake popular in Taiwan. It consists of several thin layers that are easily pulled off when you pick them up, hence the name. A reason for their popularity could be that it is easy to combine them with any dish. You can wrap a few spoons of the dish in a pancake and eat it with your hands, as a Chinese type of wrap.
  19. Haidilao; this is the only brand name in the list, and not one of a food, but of a hot pot restaurant. By now, even inattentive readers will have noted that hot pot is a popular type of food and Haildilao has grown into the leading chain in this business. What puzzles me is how you can get Haidilao from Tmall. Perhaps Tmall can also be used to book a table.
  20. Thin cream; Chinese traditionally do not like dairy products and the main reason is that most of them have a problem with the creamy taste of milk. The very fact that thin cream appears in this list, even though at the end, is a revolution. However, its main use is raw material for whipped cream, in which the creamy flavour is partly masked by the added sugar.

This is what a hand-pulled pancake looks like

Well, this is the Top 20 most popular food products purchased from Tmall mid March, 2020. I will refrain from guesses and inferences about what it could mean for suppliers who want to cash in on this reasonably affluent segment of the Chinese market. Most of them will be able to make that step and Eurasia Consult is always there to help out.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

Camel milk – fad or trend?

For dairy consuming Westerners, the word milk, without any specification, is automatically linked to cows. This is not always the case in other regions of the world, including most parts of China. Goat raising regions produce goat milk, which is also quite familiar in Europe. However, Mongolians also drink horse milk, usually fermented. A few regions commercially process donkey milk. The latter two are available in China, but on a very small scale. One type of non-bovine milk that seems to be catching on in China is camel milk.

Decrease and increase

According to the latest available statistics, 338,400 camels were being raised in China at the end of 2018, up from 242,800 in 2011. In fact, the number of camels was 640,000 in 1981, but the number started decreasing as fewer and fewer camels were used for transportation. The recent rise is due to the new interested in camel milk. Almost 90% of the camels in China live in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

Milking camels

A camel typically produces 1.2 mt of milk p.a. compared to 8 – 9 mt of a Holstein cow. That makes camels rather inefficient milk producers. The following table shows the historic development of camel milk output in China

Year Output (mt)
2014 14,100
2015 13,800
2016 14,000
2017 14,600
2018 15,200

In 2018, Xinjiang was the largest production region with 52.94%, followed by Inner Mongolia with 26%.

Pricing

The purchasing price of raw camel milk increased considerably during the same period.

Year Price (RMB/kg)
2014 30
2015 32
2016 35
2017 42
2018 48

Nutrition

Camel milk is high in: calcium, iron, and vitamins B and C. It is therefore thought to be good for preventing osteoporosis. It also contains fair amounts of lysozyme, lactoferrin and immunoglobulin.

Prospects

Insiders expect that the Chinese demand for camel milk will increase steadily during the coming years. The value of the market was RMB 974 mln in 2019, but is expect to increase to RMB 2.228 billion by 2024. Online supermarket Tmall has reported a turnover of camel milk powder of RMB 81.83 mln per month in 2020; 40 times the amount in 2019.

Products

A number of commercial camel milk products are available in China. In this post, I am introducing Tuoneng. The pictures respectively show the canned milk and the packaging line.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

From milk to candy and back to milk – co-branding Chinese style

I originally wanted to post this product on the Trends page of this blog, as a notable innovative product. However, thinking more about the history of how the White Rabbit brand has developed (also see my post on candy), I believe it deserves a separate mini-post on the main page.

Indigenous milk candy

White Rabbit Creamy Candy was originally manufactured by the ABC Candy Factory of Shanghai in 1943, when a merchant from ABC tried a milk candy from England and thought that the taste of the candy was not bad. After half a year of development, he then manufactured the factory’s own brand of milk candies. The main ingredient is not raw milk, but sweetened condensed milk, the oldest indigenous industrial dairy product in China. The oldest producers was Baihao, established in Zhejiang province in 1926. The first ABC milk candies were packaged using a red Mickey Mouse drawing on the label, and were named ABC Mickey Mouse Sweets. As their prices were lower than imported products, they became widely popular among the people.

In the 1950s, ABC became a state-owned enterprise. As Mickey Mouse was seen as a symbol for worshiping foreign countries, the packaging was redesigned to feature a White Rabbit and an artist’s paint palette with Chinese and English hand-lettering in a colour scheme of red, blue and black against a white background. The result was a distinctive candy label design that became instantly recognizable around the world. Initially, production of the candies was capped at 800 kg per day, and they were manually produced. In 1959, these candies were given as gifts for the tenth National Day of the China. In 1972, Premier Zhou Enlai used White Rabbit candies as a gift to American president Richard Nixon when the latter visited China. The White Rabbit brand was transferred to the Guanshengyuan Group in November 1997.

See my post on candy for more details about the product, including its formulation.

White Rabbit Ice cream

Although the White Rabbit brand already had some history, its popularity worldwide has grown with the economy of China. Demand is increasing, especially during the Chinese New Year period, when many families provide White Rabbit sweets among other candies for visitors. The product generated a turnover of RMB 320 mln in 2013. The candies are now exported to more than forty countries and territories, including the United States, Europe and Singapore. On December 2, 2017, Wong’s Ice Cream of Toronto, Canada unveiled the first ice cream flavour made from White Rabbit Candy.

This association with ice cream has made Guanshengyuan to launch an ‘ice cream flavoured’ version of its candies. See my post on candy for more details on the formulation.

Starbucks and White Rabbit – cross-cultural co-branding

Starbucks is known for its attempts to grow roots in local markets by adding its own versions of local delicacies, like selling moon cakes for the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival. The company also occasionally serves White Rabbit Candy Frappe. According to a blogger, the it is made with two simple ingredients from Starbucks: Syrup Creme Frap and Brown Brown Butter Shortbread Sauce. If this is correct, Starbucks is only using the brand name and a picture of the original candies. The product itself seems unrelated to White Rabbit candy.

White Rabbit cosmetics

The brand is so attractive that it has been licensed to a number of cosmetics products. The first is White Rabbit Lip Balm, produced by Maxam. It is a limited-edition product and sold out in seconds on the online retailer, Tmall. The product has ingredients including essences of sweet almonds and olive. Shen Qinfeng from Guanshengyuan, stated in an interview: “How to make our brand younger, as well as adding nostalgia and emotion, is something we have been exploring.”

White Rabbit’s popularity in Singapore has given birth to a range of cosmetics, including shower cream and body lotion. While you could say that lip balm is still related to food, as you will gradually swallow it, these products are exclusively for external use. However, the background picture does include ice cream, so there is at least a subtle allusion to food.

White Rabbit milk

The most recent development is that Shanghai-based Bright Dairy launched a White Rabbit flavoured milk. The package tells us that this milk is ‘milk candy-flavoured’. It is like stating that a tangerine tastes like tangerine candy. White Rabbit Milk is the product of Chinese culture. It is the result of a strategic alliance of two major Shanghai-based companies, reflecting the strong regional chauvinism in Chinese culture (also see my post on the various food capitals in China). I have noted in several posts in this blog that the creamy flavour of milk is still not generally accepted in China. Shanghai could be the region in China with the highest acceptance of milk. Shanghai people often like to brag about their love for milk and dairy products. This is why China’s first milk candy was developed in that city in the first place. Now the success of the White Rabbit brand is used to create synergy with another old Shanghai dairy brand. It is not sure yet, whether White Rabbit Milk will be as successful as White Rabbit Candy or Bright Milk, but I will keep you abreast on this blog.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

Goji berries – China’s red gold

Chinese superfruit

Following my post on shaji, I am writing one on another superfruit: goji berries. Goji berries are native to Asia, though some species of the plant can be found growing in North America. Goji berries belong to the nightshade family, which means that they are related to potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. They have a long history of use in China. According to an early legend regarding the goji berry and its value, a doctor more than 2000 years ago visited a village that consisted mostly of centenarians. After observing them for a time, the doctor noticed that the residents who lived the longest also had homes closest to the wells were goji berry trees grew. As the fruits ripened, they would fall off into the water and their nutrients would be infused into it. Villagers who lived near the wells would drink the water and benefit from its nutrients. There are multiple variations of this legend. Documentation of the benefits of goji berries begins with a book written the mythical doctor Shen Nong in the year 250 BC, the oldest book on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Another important Chinese book written by Li Shizhen in the 16th century also includes important information on the subject of the goji berry.

Nutrition

Goji berries are known primarily for their nutritional value and health benefits. Some of the factors that make them famous for boosting health are:

  • Amino acids: goji berries provide 8 essential amino acids that your body cannot synthesize.
  • Zeaxanthin: goji contain a high concentration of an antioxidant called zeaxanthin, good for preventing certain eye diseases. According to various studies, a diet that contains goji berries can increase a person’s zeaxanthin levels by as much as 26%.
  • Vitamins: goji berries can provide you almost twice the vitamin A that you need in a day. It also has about a third of the daily recommended vitamin C.
  • Minerals: goji berries are rich in some important minerals including iron and potassium.

Geographic spread

Goji berries grow in a large area northwest China, but Ningxia is by far the largest producer. The following table shows the regional breakdown on the output of 2017 (dried berries).

Region output (mt)
Ningxia 108,500
Gansu 105,800
Qinghai 95,000
Xinjiang 66,600
Others 34,700

Steady growth

As goji berries have been such a valuable earner of hard currency, the Chinese goji production has grown steadily during the past years, as is shown in the following table.

Year output (mt)
2018 451,000
2017 410,600
2016 360,900
2015 293,200
2014 229,600

Export

Although the demand on the world market is huge, the domestic demand is also substantial. After all, goji berries are a TCM, so have been used for ages. In fact, Western consumers got to know goji from China, like ginseng. The following table shows the export volumes of the same years as the production figures above.

Year export (mt)
2018 12,000
2017 12,600
2016 12,700
2015 9,800
2014 12,300

Goji as (health) food ingredient

Goji berries are no longer exclusively used in Chinese medicine. They have become an ingredient in a growing range of health foods and beverage. I will list a few in this section to give an impression of how goji is used by Chinese food technologists.

Herbal tea

This herbal tea by Laojin Mofang consists of dried longan slices, dates and goji berries. It is a refreshing beverage that lasts a long time, as you can add boiling water a number of times.

Halal goji drink

Qiye Qing turns goji berries into a cloudy orange-colored bottled beverage. The ad uses the alternative name for goji: wolfberries. The drink is certified halal. The manager, Mr. He Jun, believes this move is a great opportunity to cash in on the Middle Eastern and Central Asian markets. The picture shows an ad of this beverage. See my post on Halal food for more details.

Goji as snack

With the increased interested in healthier food, dried goji berries have become an interesting snack. Check out this small helping of goji by Qilixiang.

I may add more products in the future.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.