Preserved fruit – possibly China’s the oldest candy

Before people had fridges to keep their food for a longer period, or longer in frozen condition, mankind has invented a number of processes to make fresh produce last a little longer. However, if such processes would affect the original flavour too much or make it visually unappetising, the product would be unacceptable. So, food preservation is tightly connected with maintaining the original organoleptic aspects of the original product.

Preserved candied fruits, have been a popular snack in China for ages, known as guofu or mijian. Preserving fruits started as a way to keep summer and autumn fruits into the winter. Originally, candied fruits were treats for the imperial courts. In ancient times, emperors wanted to enjoy fruit all year around, but transportation was too slow to deliver fresh fruit to the capital from the warmer southern regions. 

Several types of preserved fruits

The most telling story about this problem feature the most famous concubine in China’s history: Yang Yuhuan, the favourite concubine of emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty (8th century). The emperor had lychees, that Yang loved so much, delivered to the palace using the imperial courier’s fast horses, whose riders would take shifts day and night in a Pony Express-like manner. This service used to be reserved to sending urgent messages. This angered the courtiers so much, that they persuaded the emperor to have Yang killed.

Concubine Yang with a lychee

Smart cooks came up with the idea of soaking fruit in honey to seal it from the air and prevent deterioration. When they consecutively tried to boil the fruit in honey, a new snack was created. As the imperial court in the last two dynasties, Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911), were located in Beijing, that city is still considered the best place for tasting a wide range of authentic and traditional preserved fruits.

The process

The main difference between preserved and dried fruit is the use of honey or sugar in the preserving process. Traditionally, preserved fruit are produced by simmering fresh fruit in honey to remove moisture. Sugar is often substituted for honey nowadays to cut production costs. Selecting the best fruit is crucial in making mijian and guofu. The fruit must be ripe but still dense enough to withstand long boiling. Different varieties have specific requirements. Apricots should be golden, with moderate hardness, while apples with low moisture content and loose flesh are best. Once fruit has been pitted and peeled, it is smoked in sulphur to prevent oxidation of the tannin. It is then boiled in a highly concentrated sugar syrup.

Not all candied or preserved fruit is sticky in texture. Though the words guofu and mijian are interchangeable, guofu is more commonly used to describe preserved fruit that is dried after boiling in sugar or honey, while mijian refers to the more juicy and glossy versions that aren’t dried after cooking. Some Chinese guofu have a thin granulated sugar coating, which is more common in southern provinces like Fujian and Guangdong.

Popular types

Yangmeigan, or candied Chinese bayberry, is made by boiling the fresh berries in sugar water, then baking the berries to remove moisture. A sugar coating is added for extra sweetness and texture. This snack is very popular, especially in Yangtze River Delta region.

Guofu and mijian are most commonly made with green plums, apricots and peaches. But the preservation process has also been extended to more unconventional ingredients, like winter gourd, ginger, water chestnuts, lotus roots and olives.

Tangjiangpian, or candied ginger, is a specialty in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. The recipe, which originated in the Ming Dynasty, is favoured for its sweet and spicy flavour as well as for the health benefits of ginger. For the process, fresh, tender ginger roots are rinsed, peeled and thinly sliced. Then they are tossed in granulated sugar and dried under a hot sun. The process is repeated several times until all the moisture from the ginger is gone.

The peelings of orange and grapefruit can also be made into candied preserves. The process requires separating the outer zest of the citrus from the bitter white pith. The peeling is then boiled in water and cut into thin slices, which are subsequently boiled in a syrup of equal parts water and sugar. When the peelings take on a transparent appearance, they are removed from the syrup and spread out on a flat surface to cool. Finally, they are rolled in granulated sugar. Tangerine peel is used to make sun-dried chenpi, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in cooking (try them when stewing beef!). In Guangdong, jiuzhi chenpi is a snack made by processing the dried tangerine peel with liquorice root and sugar.

Dried orange peel – chenpi

Various preserved plums, like huameiwumei and jiayingzi, and hawthorn berries are the most common varieties of more sour preserved fruit sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. The sourest of the huamei preserved plums is one that looks quite mummified, with white powder on a caramel-coloured surface. Made of green plums, it is infused with the flavour of liquorice, giving it a distinctive saltiness that is said to stimulate salivation.

Wumei, or black preserved plum, is less sour and a bit meatier. It is made from Chinese plums, or Prunus Mume. This variety is also an element of traditional Chinese medicine and a key ingredient in the popular summertime beverage of sour plum juice.

Dried mango; this was the most popular preserved fruit by far sold on the online platform Tmall in 2020.

Health food

A number of fruit popular for preservation is attributed medicinal activity in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Good examples are: date, tangerine peel, ginger and black plum (wumei). You can also make herbal tea from several types of preserved fruits, like tangerine peel (chenpi) tea. Preserved fruits can also be enriched with other medicinal ingredients like: dates with ajiao (a gel extracted from donkey skin), or hawthorn with probiotics.

Hawthorn with lactobacillus

Cooking ingredient

Guofu and mijian are often used in classic dishes such as babaofan, or eight-treasure rice, and zongzi with preserved honey dates as filling. Preserved fruits are also added to oatmeal to create a more interesting breakfast.


Modernisation: low sugar

Of course, anything dripping with sweetness comes under scrutiny in today’s health-conscious world. That’s also true of preserved fruit. In recent years, food scientists have developed production methods that use less sugar. One process uses low pressure injection of gel, e.g., algin. In this way you can use less sugar, while preserving the texture of the final product.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

Yoghurt: the centre in Chinese food innovation

Food and beverages form one of the most innovative industries worldwide. Consumers get easily bored with their daily bites and sips and feel a strong need for regular change of flavours, textures, colours, etc. The typical products with such regular changes are snacks or sodas, stuff that you eat or drink between meals, to kill part but not all of your hunger, or even purely for diversion.

When scanning the new launches in China of the past few months, another type of product clearly stands out, one that is usually regarded as a healthy food: yoghurt.

Dairy is regarded as the single most nutritious food group in China and therefore tops the current Chinese food pyramid. In particular, Chinese strongly believe that dairy products enhance the immune system, so the Covid-19 epidemic has triggered a tsunami of new dairy products during the latter half of 2020. As many Chinese still have a problem with the odour and flavour of regular milk, yoghurt is a more widely accepted dairy product among Chinese consumers. In this post, I want to introduce a number of the most noticeable newly launched yoghurts, each representing a subtype.

Yoghurt and tradition

The renewed interest in traditional culture in China is also reflected in the celebration of traditional holidays, like the Mid Autumn Festival. Although dairy is a mainly a foreign food group, several of the newly launched yoghurts in China are branded in connection with a traditional holiday. Yili has issued a limited edition of its Ambrosial yoghurt for the Mid Autumn Festival.

Beijing’s pastry maker Daoxiangcun, that does not a dairy company, has even launched a one-time Dragon Boat Festival yoghurt flavoured with mooncake, the traditional pastry eaten during that festival and of which Daoxiangcun is a main supplier.

Yoghurt and milk tea

Milk tea is a vogue that reached Mainland China from Taiwan and quickly became bigger than in its home market. Young Chinese are willing to line up for hours to get a cup of their favourite milk tea. Yuanqi Senlin has cashed in that by launching a milk tea inspired yoghurt.

Black yoghurt

I posted an earlier introduction about various types of ‘black food’ in China. Black food is traditionally linked to health. Moreover, there is a small but stable group of young people interested in gothic music, including the black outfit that come with it. A number of black yoghurts have been launched in previous months. E.g., there is Yiming’s yoghurt coloured with inkfish ink and black sesame seeds.

Yili’s Ambrosial also has a range of black yoghurts with various funny flavours: chives, garlic, shrimp, rice vinegar, etc.

New raw materials

These are yoghurt not made from milk (or not only milk).

Tianyou has launched a Zero (zero sugar, zero additives) soybean-based yoghurt.

Beijing-based Marvelous Foods recently launched its flagship store on Tmall with its signature offering: Yeyo Coconut Yogurt with zero-added sugar, no sweeteners, or artificial flavours. The initial launch of the plant-based range includes a ‘pure’ sugar-free flavour, along with two yoghurt-granola cups with seasonal fruit and nut granola toppings and are priced at RMB 15 per 100 gr. Its latest product was developed after extensive formulation R&D by joining forces with leading ingredients company DSM.

High nutrition yoghurt

While yoghurt itself is already regarded a nutritious in China, some producers add extra nutrients. Yili has developed high protein yoghurt . . . 

. . . and one with several probiotics to enhance the functioning of the intestines.

Wahaha is selling a yoghurt drink with amino acids that promote a good night sleep.

For the opposite, to pick yourself up, you can use Mengniu’s yoghurt with arrowroot; also said to be good for curing hangovers.

Yoghurt and . . . noodles

China’s top dairy processor Yili has launched a combination pack of its Ambrosial yoghurt and Wuhan-style noodles (Cailinji brand) late 2020. It is a limited edition commerating the brave citizens of Wuhan who suffered most from the COVID-19 epidemic.

More have been launched and I expect even more will follow. I will regularly update this post with new products.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

Not From Concentrate – slowly but gradually coming to China

Fruit juice has been an emerging popular beverage category in China for some time now. Fruit has a healthy image, so fruit juice drinks are easy to market as good for you, at least better than sugary soda beverages. However, even up to the present day, most fruit juice drinks for sale in China have a 5% to 10% fruit juice content; the remainder being water and a mix of the usual ingredients.

Fruit juice drinks with a higher juice content are rare in China. It was therefore a surprise to note that Not From Concentrate (NFC) juice suddenly the appeared on the Chinese market a few years ago. Still, if fruit juice is healthy, NFC should be the healthiest of them all.

The founder of Lingdu Guofang, Sun Jun, who had started his career at Mengniu Dairy, and a manager of mineral water giant Nongfu Spring jointly announced China’s first NFC juice on Food & Beverage Innovation Forum (FBIF) 2017.

In 2018, the retail sales volume of fruit juice amounted to 14 billion litres. However, only 5% were 100% juice and only 1% of that volume was NFC. The NFC juice consumption per capita in China was only 16 ml. Although the market size at present is quite small, prospects for growth are high, as was indicated on FBIF 2020.

Consumer profile

As for now, most NFC juice consumers are females, adults from 23 to 40 years old, living in the first-tier cities, and parents. White collar workers, gym-patrons and people who care about body management will be the next potential consumer groups. Getting enough vitamins, health, and flavour are the top three reasons mentioned to purchase NFC juice.


There some obstacles for NFC suppliers to overcome. Two thirds of Chinese consumers do not know the difference between 100% juice and NFC. Another problem is that NFC juice can be easily replaced. A 2020 Healthy Drink Research showed that a considerable part of consumers did not choose NFC juice because the can buy fruits and eat those directly. Fruits are cheap in China.

Popular beverages like bubble tea also pose a threat. Such teas with fruit juice are also marketed as ‘healthy’ and can be purchased to go. Fresh fruits can be squeezed at home. NFC is only for sale in bottles, so consumer who want to have a fruity drink while shopping, will buy a bubble tea. In June 2020, the famous tea drink brand Hey Tea also launched bottled NFC juice products in its own bubble tea shops.

Where to go

Worldwide, most fruit juice products are still single-flavoured, dominated by orange. But in China, consumers are more open to mixed flavours, or a mixed vegetable and fruit juice. Exotic fruits can be another considered.

The promotion of NFC juice shall be first focused, highlighting “NFC” on labels. Comments like “additive-free,” place of origin, health benefits, etc., are also important in China. It also very important to connect products with consumption contexts. For example, NFC juice could be the best choice for mothers in the supermarket when the kids want to buy beverages.

It would better to position NFC juice together with other health products, rather than sharing a shelf if regular fruit juice and fruity beverages.

In spite of the challenges, I am sure that NFC will grow in China in the coming years. Covid-19 has increased the already existing trend towards more healthy eating and drinking among Chinese consumers.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

Health food from China’s coasts: China’s seaweed industry

Seaweed has been integrated in Chinese cuisine for centuries and was used in food, feed and even building materials. In 2021, the average consumption of seaweed at home was 78.09 gr/month/person for urban residents. The outside home figure was 27.54 gr. and for urban residents 48.80 and 9.27 respectively.


The modern seaweed industry in China, being the largest seaweed producer in the world, began with two phases.

  • The first phase started in the 1960s when the Chinese government was struggling with a huge iodine deficiency in many parts of the country. The government stimulated growing kelp and extract iodine from it. Since then, the scale of kelp cultivation has developed dramatically.
  • The second phase started with the economic reforms in China from 1980s on. During this phase, the cultivation area and production volume have grown rapidly due to high demand for food ingredients extracted from seaweed like alginate, mannitol. Seaweed itself was also consumed more and more directly, in particular as a healthy snack.


According to the 2016 Chinese Fishery Yearbook, the yearly seaweed yield was over 2.1 mln mt dry weight in 2015, which was nearly 50% of world seaweed yield. By looking into this volume from an economic perspective, the total value of seaweed in China was USD 8.64 billion.  As for the production regions, Fujian, Shandong and Liaoning, dominate the seaweed production, accounting for nearly 90% of total national output.

Rongcheng in Shandong and Fuzhou in Fujian have been given the designation ‘Seaweed Capital of China‘. The seaweed production of Rongcheng currently is 410,000 mt p.a.; 30% of the total national volume. China has exported 2000 mt of seaweed in 2021 in the first 10 months of 2021.


In terms of the types, kelp is the largest species produced, accounting for 67% of the national seaweed yield. The second largest one is Gracilaria which belongs to the family of red algae, accounting for 13%. A major product in this category is laver, ‘purple cabbage (zicai)’ in Chinese, known as nori in Japanese. China produced 212,300 mt of laver in 2019; up 5.22%. Then there is the sea mustard (qundaicai), also better known with its Japanese name: wakame. China produced 202,400 mt of sea mustard in 2019; up 15.32%. Japanese are the nation with the largest wakame consumption, but 70% of it is imported from China.

Adding value

A major problem with seaweed products was that the cost and wholesale prices were extremely low because of massive cultivation. To increase the economic value of the industry, several value adding products have been developed in recent years: including food supplements, medical matrix, medicines and skin care products. A few have been introduced in earlier posts in this blog:

  • The Chinese army is investigating the use of seaweed as a source of ingredients for anti-radiation foods and beverages.
  • Seaweed is used as an ingredient for artificial jellyfish.
  • Several products on the Trends page of this blog have seaweed as an ingredient.

Workers packing laver for exporting

Seaweed snacks

With the increasing spending power of Chinese consumers, and the growing preference for more healthy food, the consumption of seaweed snacks has grown rapidly during the past few years. The leading product is nori, laver processed into thin sheets, not for wrapping sushi, but for direct consumption. Due to the high fibre content, nori is a good way to alleviate hunger without consuming many calories. China produced 24,590 mt of nori in 2019; up 5.86%.

Chinese R&D in this industry had produced a number of innovative products. A good example is tomato flavoured nori by Strongfood (Guangdong).

Seagrass meadows

Very few seagrass meadows have been recorded in the country yet. As of 2014, only 87.6 km had been identified, with 80 km of that area in the South China Sea. Then, in 2015, exciting news emerged from northeast China’s Bohai Sea – a 10 km meadow had been found off Caofeidian, a district of Tangshan. In September 2019, a survey by the Ministry of Natural Resources expanded the total seagrass coverage in the area to 50 km. Clearly these ecosystems are not only to be found in the south. A 2016 survey of the Caofeidian seagrass meadows, led by Liu Hui of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences’ Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute, found a rich variety of species, including juveniles of many different types of fish and bottom-dwellers like the webfoot octopus, veined rapa whelk and Manila clam. Many juvenile shellfish were also found in the sediment, as well as clam worms. With its favourable climate, the island province of Hainan has the widest variety of seagrass species. But the dominant species in the south is Halophila ovalis, sometimes called dugong grass. In the Yellow and Bohai seas, eelgrass is most common. The large area of seagrass discovered in 2015 was predominantly eelgrass. In June 2020, seagrass meadows were included in a 2021-2035 national plan for the protection and restoration of important ecosystems.

In view of the good prospects of this market, I expect this post to expand soon.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

Chinese yam – food that helps digest itself

A Chinese food ingredient less known in the Western world is the yam (Dioscorea polystachya) literally called ‘mountain medicine’ (shanyao) in Chinese. It is sometimes called Chinese potato or by its Japanese name nagaimo. Eating Chinese yam (first scrape off the hairy peel) by itself is an acquired taste. They have a slightly hot flavour, different from the heat of chili peppers.

Truly Chinese

China has produced 48,189,000 mt of yams in 2019; good for 65.37% of the total global production. The name ‘Chinese yam’ is well deserved. The Chinese yam’s growing cycle spans approximately one year, and should be planted between winter and spring. The traditional methods growing it are: using smaller tubers, top cut of bigger tubers or through cuttings of branches. The first two methods can produce 20 cm long tubers and above. The latter produces smaller tubers (10 cm) that are usually replanted for the next year. Between 7 and 9 months of replanting Chinese yam tubers, their leaves start to get dry, which indicates that it’s time to harvest. In home gardens generally only what will be consumed is harvested, with the rest left in the pot in moist soil.

Medicinal properties

Chinese yam is also a herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The main health benefits it is known for is strengthening the spleen and stomach to aid digestion. Chinese yam also aids in lowering the blood sugar level. It can be used to treat diabetes or a good diabetic diet. Besides that, Chinese yam contains mild medicinal properties, unlike ginseng which could help to regulate sleep. Consuming Chinese yam helps to nourish kidneys and enriching essence as it contains a variety of nutrients which can strengthen the immune system of the body.

Study shows that Chinese yam has antioxidant properties which is beneficial as a daily supplement. Chinese yam extract helps in preventing disease which plaque build-up in the arteries. Chinese yam also is a natural slimming food. It has high fibre content to produce the feeling of fullness after consuming it.

Yam in cooking

Unlike most other yams, the Chinese yam can be eaten raw (grated or sliced). However, Chinese still usually cook yams, as they are much less interested in eating raw food than their eastern neighbours in Korea and Japan. To prepare fresh Chinese yams, it is recommended to rinse it under cool water before peeling the outer skin. Take caution while peeling as the slipper secretion makes it difficult to grip. Do not soak Chinese yams as it weakens the beneficial functions of the herb and washes the nutrients away.

The most common way to consume Chinese yams is cooking chunks of yam in rice congee. The yam adds texture to the congee, while the congee helps neutralising the sharpness of the yam. Dates are often added for their fruity sweet flavour.

Chinese yam can also be stir-fried alone with carrots, hot peppers dipped in hot pot or stewed pork rib soup.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

Time to sober up – the Chinese way

On average, the Chinese are not heavy drinkers. However, when they do drink during a business dinner or other occasions to forge good guanxi with others, they don’t honour that image. They not only drink a lot, but drink fast, throwing down one glass after another rather than sipping and enjoying their drink.

Combine this with a much lower ability to digest alcohol than the average Caucasian and you end up with a lot of problems. When Chinese are hung over, they are not only suffering from headaches, but their entire body feels awful. While Westerners regard an (occasional) hangover as something that will pass by sooner or later, Chinese, also under the influence of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), perceive it as a disease, a condition that needs tending to. And that creates a lucrative market for sobering up products.

Individual herbs

A number of TCM herbs are said to help relieve various ailments caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. The better-known ones include arrowroot, polysaccharides from razor shells, oligopeptides from maize, probiotics, etc. However, taking these products individually is not very attractive in terms of flavour or taste.


Therefore, Chinese food technologists have designed a existing products enriched with one or more of these TCM ingredients, which can be marketed as help avoiding or alleviating the ills of excessive drinking. In this blog, I am introducing a three of the more popular ones.

Tianxing by Mengniu

Tianxing literally means ‘waking up gently’, which all of wish for after an alcoholic night with our mates or business relations. Tianxing is yoghurt enriched with arrowroot. Arrowroot contains glycine that helps the body to break down alcohol quickly. Please note that this is the general TCM explanation. So don’t hold me to it. Anyway, Mengniu is one of China’s top yoghurt producers, so if it does not cure your head, it still makes a healthy snack after drinking.

One Quarter Before Drinking by Bright

Shanghai Bright cannot afford to lag behind in this market with a sobering up yoghurt of its own. This product contains curcuma and goji. These are well-known super ingredients, so if does not do any good for your hangover, it still makes a healthy food.

Sobering Up Honey by Fengxiang

Beijing Fengxiang Beverage Co., Ltd. is producing this sobering up drink containing:

Honey, arrowroot, hawthorn, lemon, prunes, mulberry, orange peel, mint, liquorice and lotus leaves

This drink contains so many good ingredients, that it is bound to make you feel great, whenever you drink it. As Fengxiang is a honey processor, honey seems to be the primary ingredient, after water, of course.


The latest adding to this list was launched in the spring of 2020. It has been developed by Fuxi Yingmen (Sichuan), a trader in alcoholic beverages and is marketed under the brand name Laoban (Mogul). Its ingredients include:

Arrowroot, goji, ginseng, hericium erinaceus (a fungus), polygonatum sibiricum, astragalus propinquus, etc.

Broader application

The Chinese market for sobering up products has apparently developed so rapidly, that newcomers have a harder time positioning their products specifically for post-alcoholic ailments. Lepur has launched its “Relax” yogurt targeting meat lovers, greasy food lovers, and those who have digestive problems after eating and drinking in 2020. The new product adds Bifidobacterium bifidum BB536 to relieve constipation symptoms and regulate intestinal ecological balance.

Does this post strike you as at least a little sarcastic? Perhaps you’re right. Sober up foods, drinks and supplements have been produced in East Asia for a long time already. I have once tried Japanese pills, containing oyster extract, that claimed to prevent alcohol entering your blood stream. Believe, me, they didn’t do the job. However, as several new products have been launched recently, this is worth a post. Moreover, the products introduced above are at least tasty beverages, so who cares if they do what they promise to do, it is an extra bonus to what is already a pleasure for the taste buds. It is always to good hydrate while drinking alcohol, right?

The best advice I can give, although I myself am not always able to heed it, is don’t drink too much, especially not of the Chinese baijiu.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

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.

Fishy ice cream

Lidaju has designed what could be the weirdest type of savoury ice cream: fishy-flavored ice cream with bits of dried squid in it. This is someone I would only recommend to the seasoned lover of crazy foods. This is corroborated by the sub-text on the packaging feichang bu kede ‘very improper’.

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

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

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

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

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.








Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.

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.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.