An exhibition of innovative fun foods from China
Chinese food innovation is one of my favourite themes in this blog. You can find lots of them in various posts. However, it is not easy to see trends in the Chinese food market from those scattered notes. This section of the blog is dedicated to discerning trends, through products that have been launched recently.
Unlike the Latest News page, the contents of this page will remain for a longer period, while I will simply add new products on top of the stack, marking the date of posting of each product. Late 2019, I may opt to clean this page up, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there. Not all products introduced here are actually launched on the day of posting. However, they are all recently put on the market.
In spite of the name of this section, it does not introduce completely worked out trends. It is a collection of innovative foods introduced on various Chinese sites as ‘new’, ‘useful’, ‘exciting’, etc. Different readers will interpret a product differently, based on their own product range. However, to help readers find certain types of products, I have made a few tags of recurrent aspects:
|Traditional||new form(ulation)s of traditional Chinese foods and beverages|
|Funny||textures, shapes, colours, etc., promoted as amusing|
|Convenient||promoted as more convenient to consume than the original versions|
|Healthy||promoted as health or nutritious|
|Fancy||promoted as luxury|
Don’t search for ‘innovative’. There is no such tag, as all products in this section are innovative in one way or another.
Glutinous rice balls
This product is an interesting combination of two traditional foods: tangyuan, the glutinous rice balls typically eating half a month after Chinese New Year and mooncakes, the pastry eating during the Mid Autumn Festival. The fillings vary: mango, egg yolk, bean paste, etc. Most of these are also traditional fillings. The brand name Zhenzhenlaolao, literally: ‘Really Really Old’ reinforces that this is traditional stuff in a novel formulation.
Posted on 21/3/2019
Chia seeds oatmeal
This is not the first oatmeal in this section, and also not the first oatmeal with many nutritious dried fruit and nuts. The USP of this product by Wugumofang (literally: Five Grains Mill) is chia seeds. One Chinese blogger states that you can eat it in your yoghurt without having to worry about growing fatter.
[healthy, fancy, convenient]
Egg milk pudding
The brand name of this product, Clever Mama (Qiaomama) indicates that it is marketed for consumption by children. Its ads even indicate that you can serve it to them for breakfast.
Vegetarian is increasing in popularity in China as well. However, Chinese vegetarians expect that the flavour and texture of their food resembles that of the traditional food. Wuxianzhai is bringing this vegetarian beef in a way that seems to imitate traditional Chinese cold marinated beef: Wuxiangniurou (literally: Five Flavour Beef). It is part of a range of vegetarian meats.
Posted on 17/3/2019
Peach gum is regarded as a beauty tonic in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It comes in the form of amber-hued crystals and is the resin of the Chinese peach tree (prunus persica). It is known for its beneficial properties on improving various skin conditions. Commonly prepared into soup-like desserts, often adding goji or dates. It is generally tasteless with a gelatine bouncy texture similar to bird’s nest. Peach gum is popular among Chinese women as it is rich in collagen. Up to now, most peach gum on the market contains a considerable amount of impurities. Baozhilin is now offering a more refined peach gum.
[healthy, fancy, convenient]
Posted on 11/3/2019
Yunnan flower cake
What is special about this product is that it is inspired by a traditional local product: filo pastry filled with rose jam from Yunnan province (China’s Southwest food region). With reference to my blog about traditional Chinese desserts, it belongs to the category bing ((pan)cake, pastry). It is not a completely newly designed food, but a modern way to preserve a local tradition.
Posted on 8/3/2019
Beef shiitake sauce
Yes, I can hear you protest that this is not innovative at all. Still, it is a complete sauce that you can spoon over a quickly cooked bowl of noodles and voilà, you have a breakfast, lunch or any-time snack for people with a full agenda who still want to enjoy the proper flavours. In fact, the producer should try to promote this in Europe. I’m sure there is market for an Asian ready-to-use sauce like this.
Posted on 5/3/2019
The Chinese term bing has been introduced in the dessert blog. It literally means ‘biscuit’, but can refer to a wide range of flat sweet foods. Ume House is selling ‘honey flavoured plum biscuits’ as a healthy snack.
Sweet & Sour glass noodles
The struggle of instant noodles to maintain its position as the Chinese’ most favourite snack has been well covered in my post in this blog and my column on Just-food. One of the strategies is packing more and more condiments with the noodles. Shizuren is setting a new record in this respect. Their glass noodles come with seasoning powder, dehydrated vegetables, chili oil, spicy tripe and sesame paste. You need a big bowl to have enough space for the noodles.
Seabuckthorn milk tablets
I dedicated a special post to the superfruit seabuckthorn. Huyangfeng (Xinjiang) is combining the nutrition from the seabuckthorn with that of milk in these nutritional tablets. The promotional story positions it as a good source for calcium.
Jili NFC is promoting this maize juice as a healthy energy drink. One Chinese blogger remarks that the bottles make nice flower pots; very practical.
Posted on 22/2/2019
More breakfast(-y) items
Breakfast keeps inspiring Chinese food technologists. Here are a few more items recently promoted by Chinese influencers.
You can add oatmeal or other breakfast cereals to yoghurt to create a complete breakfast. However, why not try to add yoghurt to the cereals. Ocak is producing this oatmeal with dried fruits and yoghurt cubes. You can eat it as a complete meal, without risking spilling yoghurt on your clothes. This is the first novel food on this page that fits all categories.
[convenient, healthy, fancy, funny]
Chunguang is offering crispy coconut flakes in three flavours: natural, mango and coffee. You can eat it straight as a snack, but also add it to your breakfast cereals to add an extra layer of flavours.
Crispy rice sticks
Liuxiang’s crispy rice comes in various flavours, depending on added ingredients: sesame seeds, currents, etc. Just like the previous product, you can eat it as a snack while watching TV or add it to your breakfast cereals.
Posted on 16/2/2019
Instant milk tea
This may not sound like an exciting novel food, but its launch is directly related to the rapidly grown popularity of RTD milk tea in China. After so many brands of canned and bottled milk tea, an instant variety was bound to appear soon. Regular readers will recognise that this product is, like so many others on this page, related to the Chinese breakfast revolution as well.
Posted on 10/2/2019
Instant barley drink
Qingyuankang (Jiangsu) is producing a number of instant vegetable beverages under the Miaoyu brand. The literal meaning of this name is ‘beautiful expression’. However, ‘miao’ here refers to another character with a similar pronunciation meaning ‘sprout’. The beverage in the picture is derived from barley sprouts.
Sweet peach water
Liziyuan’s Sweet Peach Water is promoting itself as a way to increase your body Ph. It claims to be good for your complexion and conductive to sleep.
Three Squirrels is China’s currently most famous snack food brand. It is supplying various nuts and dried fruits, but has been diversifying to various other foods as well recently. This new product consists of layers of griddle cakes with red bean paste inbetween. It is promoted as an alternative for breakfast, so yet another example of the breakfast products on this page.
[convenient, healthy, funny]
We are continuing with the Chinese breakfast revolution with Dali packed toast. Two layers of toast with a dairy-based filling. It is becoming a recurrent item in this column.
I can hear you protest that this is definitely not a novel food. No, agreed, it isn’t. However, the quality of Yangguang’s banana chips is so much better than the stuff they sell in European supermarkets, even the biological ones, that it is worth introducing them here.
As I am in a ‘not novel but superior quality’ mood today, I might as well introduce this breakfast product from Huiyifang. While most oatmeals like this are oat meal with dried fruits and nuts mixed in it, here oatmeal seems like a minor ingredient. It should be a great healthy snack, but it may not be an ideal breakfast product.
There is another product in the same category: fruit mixed oat meal from Wugukuaixian (litterally: Multigrain Hotline).
Hot strips, spicy strips of wheat gluten, are becoming a vogue in China. Gluten has been used for ages in Chinese cuisine as a vegetarian alternative for animal protein, but recently the Chinese snack food industry has discovered that it is a raw material that can be made into a broad range of savoury snacks. Weilong is recommended by Chinese influencers as one of the better hot strip brands.
Coconut Egg Roll
Egg rolls are not a new product in China. They have been around for a while and are based on a European type of pastry. Still, this egg roll by Duobilun strikes me as an interesting novel version. Coconut-flavoured foods are favourite in most parts of China.
Purple Rice Bread
Regular visitors will recognize this: yet another product of the Chinese breakfast revolution. Two slices of bread with purple rice in between: a genuine fusion of Western and Chinese food, a genuine fusion food.
Although Hainan produces coconuts, Xiduoduo is promoting its new coconut beverage as ‘made from imported coconut liquid’. Unlike earlier coconut drinks, like Yedao, this drink also contains coconut meat.
In principle, I prefer not to post too many similar products on this page, but this herbal tea still strikes me as interesting enough to add. It is produced by Laojin Mofang and 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.
Finally, a ‘fun’ novel food again. Top candy maker Hsu Fu Chi has launched this corn-shaped and corn-flavoured candy. It has soft, gelly-like texture, but has a unique mouthfeel due to the rough outside.
Posted on 15/1/2019
Double layered seaweed snack
Xuanji has developed a seaweed snack consisting of two layers of dried seaweed with a layer of sesame seeds in-between. It claims to be additive free. The packaging is less convenient for carrying around, but it is necessary to protect this brittle snack.
Panpan is also cashing in on the Chinese breakfast revolution with ‘dry cake’. The texture resembles that of toast, but its taste that of cake. It advertises with a ‘milky flavour’. The packing emanates a Western identity.
Instant Chongqing Hot Pot dip
Hot pot is hot in China and the Chongqing hot pot with its fiery broth is one of the favourites. Several ready to use seasoning packs are already on the market, but Shiji has launched a version in the form a pack of cubes. You can break off one or more for your pot, depending on the spiciness you require. The picture shows that it includes a generous layers of lard.
Posted on 11/1/2019
Nutritious instant porridge
‘Instant’ is, and will remain, a key term in this section of my blog. Today I am posting an innovative instant congee by Haifusheng. The flavours shown here are spare ribs + mushrooms (ingredients: pork, shiitake, cabbage), home-made seafood (ingredients: squid, celery, onion), and stewed beef (ingredients: beef, daylily, wood ear).
This product name will not strike many European readers as appetizing. However, Chinese consumers recommend it online. It is made from konjak, an ingredient abundantly available in China. It is produced by Moroccoo and comes in several flavours, all rather spicy. It is promoted as containing lots of fibre, so ‘you can eat as much as you like’.
Noodles to share between 5 people
This product by Chailinji appeals to the communitarian nature of Chinese culture. It is actually not a new product or even a novel way of presenting it. Pre-portioned dried noodles have been available for years. If you can then still make people introduce you as innovative, your product is genuinely innovative. A pack contains 5 portions of dried noodles, 5 packs of beef stock and 5 packs of sesame paste.
Posted on 6/1/2019
Crispy kernels and seeds with various flavours
This is perhaps not really an innovative product, but more like a new version of a classic snack, using modern food processing techniques and ingredients. Chinese girls love these (and many boys too).
You must be Chinese to appreciate a brand name like this for a lunch box of snack foods, including: bullet sausages, cookies, dried vegetarian beef, potato crisps and spicy dried beans, all in one box. Besides the box, I have added a picture of the ‘bullet sausages’. A nice collection of bites to share with friends in a park. You only need to add a couple of drinks.
Posted on 4/1/2019
These meat-based spicy sheets are not really new, but belong to the category of forgotten traditional Chinese foods that are being revived recently, with the use of modern food technology, obviously. They make a great snack, and I can imagine them finding a market in European pubs as well, if someone would like to venture to import this product.
This really is a product of today’s Chinese consumer. Abalone used to be a delicacy only to be savoured a few times a year by the average Chinese. With the increased living standard, they want to have them more often. However, the new Chinese consumer has less time to spend, so here is an instant version, complete with a sauce. You can add it to a bowl of rice or a plate of Italian pasta; in fact, to almost any dish. For RMB 48/4 pieces, the are affordable by all.
Coconut yakult lookalike
My post on formulated dairy beverages introduces how Chinese struggle with the healthy image of milk and its disagreeable taste. This newly launched yakult-like probiotic drink is flavoured with coconut juice.
Puff pastry with everything
The Egg Yoke Puff Pastry is another example of how Chinese food technologists use all their tricks to create modern versions of traditional Chinese foods. The duck egg yolk in the centre is wrapped in several layers, each with its own flavour and texture (crispy, gelatinous, sticky, etc.). Bite it slowly and enjoy these layers one by one.
Chinese love colourful foods, you can find plenty of examples in the posts of this blog. The Bread and pastry chain Nestgram is stretching this propensity to the max. For most Europeans, a product like this hardly looks like food at all, and many will be reluctant to savour it. For Chinese, however, this is the ultimate fun food.
Chinese women love crack nuts while chatting. It is probably one of the best ways to keep eating while not gaining weight. You can easily spend 10 to 15 minutes cracking a walnut and digging out all tiny pieces of meat. Loulanmiyu (‘Sweet Dreams from Loulan, an area in Xinjiang) from Wuhan has launched pre-cracked walnuts. You can still enjoy the cracking, but without the aid of a nutcracker. That will save the ladies time and keep their hands clean, but may affect their waste lines.
Zhuyeqing (Bamboo Leaf Green) is one of China’s famous traditional spirits. Jiake Chuanqi is brewing a drink made from bamboo and packing it in a bottle that resembles a chunk of bamboo. The effect is nice, but how about the taste? The original stuff is a rather sweet drink, more like a European after-dinner drink. This drink is much clearer and probably less sweet, following the current vogue for healthier formulations. I’ll let you know as soon as I can buy a bottle during my next China visit.
Instant Hot Pot
Every reader of this blog knows about the central role of instant noodles in the lives of the average Chinese consumer. You may be less familiar about other instant versions of traditional Chinese foods. Quite a number have been launched, but not all with the same success as instant noodles. The latest attempt is Huama brand (Sichuan) instant hot pot (the Chinese version of the European fondue, but water-based). You simply heat the pack, open it and start eating. However, I wonder if this can become a success. Chinese love hot pot because of the communal dipping stuff in the soup. This instant version seems to take that vital element away.
More instant hot pots
After posting the first instant hot pot, I met with two more during my scanning of the Chinese news. I therefore have grouped them here instead of maintaining strict chronological order of discovering. It is beginning to look like a genuine vogue. They all have their typical features. The main ingredient of the third one is niangao (Chinese New Year cake). It is also self-heating.
Hongtai Food (Zhejiang) has launched a ginger-date tea is a simple new product that actually could sell well in Europe. It is a great drink to ward off a cold, or alleviate its symptoms when you already have attracted one.
Jiashili from Guangdong has launched a new type of biscuits. These biscuits should strike Europeans as quite familiar. What is culturally interesting is the name: breakfast biscuits. This is not the first novel food on this page addressing the ongoing breakfast revolution in China.
Chocolate coated sunflower seeds
Mingtai Foods (Chaozhou, Guangdong) is one of the several Chinese producers of this product. It is not an extremely new, but an interesting modernisation of a very traditional Chinese snack. And chocolate is hot in China. Europeans looking at this picture could easily mistake it for an M&M lookalike. A salient detail: the Chinese brand name Chunfu shares the second character with the Chinese translation of Dove (Defu).
Changjianmian – A one-bite Breakfast
Today I am posting one item. It actually is not very new, but has been getting exposure in the national media recently. Changjianmian is a one-bite breakfast, a product suiting the growing segment of young white-collar workers who are not willing to prepare breakfast at home, but instead buy it on their way to the office. The literal meaning of the word is ‘sausage sees flour’, but it sounds like the Chinese expression for ‘Seeing each other often’. So, Changjianmian is a product with one foot in the present and another foot firmly fixed in Chinese culture. Changjianmian is produced by Hongjia Food in Zhengzhou, Henan, the centre of production of modernised versions of traditional Chinese snacks.
Posted on 20/12/2018
Candy Lord mint balls
These mint flavoured balls by Binbin Food (Chaozhou, Guangdong) are marketed as a way to keep your breath fresh, or lift your spirits during overtime. The manufacturer sells them as ‘purely handmade’. I wonder if that is really true. But the do look cute.
Xinle fruit flavoured mints
This is a similar product, also originating from Chaozhou. In China, this is not always a coincidence. Chinese love to imitate what others do well, hence you can easily find producers of similar products in the same town or county. A bonus of this product is that it is sugar free, though by far not ‘clean label’.
Mussels + mushrooms
This combination of mussels and mushrooms from Yiyueyuan Food (Xiamen, Fujian) is more like an ingredient than a finished food, although it can be eaten directly. You can put a few on a bowl of plain rice and instantly make it into a tasty dish. You can stir fry it with about any vegetable to add some protein. I like the combination of animal and vegetable protein.
Posted on 19/12/2018
Better me Water Fried chicken – fewer calories same taste
Dacheng, a site offering low calorie dishes operating under Jingdong, is offering chicken breasts fried in water. From the ad it is obvious that the target segment for this food is women anxious to maintain a slender waist. Unfortunately, while the calories provided by the 50 gr of cucumber are indicated, there is no information about the caloric value of the chicken breast.
Moranca makes you soft at heart
This cream-filled cake by Moranca is called Xinliruan ‘Soft at Heart’. In Chinese, this refers to a nice person, so I presume that the food technologists of Moranca hope for the same effect on whoever eats one of these cakes. The cream is said to have a yoghurt-like taste. This creates a lower-calorie image than sweet cream would have given. The add includes two ears of wheat, a Chinese symbol for nutrition. However, the long list of ingredients for the cake and the filling does not promise a health food.
Posted on 16/12/2018
Three Squirrels – Nuts about cakes
Three Squirrels is China’s most successful snack food brand of this moment, with seeds and nuts as its flagship products. The company’s strategists are constantly keeping their radar open for opportunities to stretch the possibilities of their resources. Their latest products is fruit cake. That is by no means a new product, but it makes sense to believe that the Three Squirrels brand can inspire their existing customers to give these cakes a try.
Qiaqia yam chips – challenging Lay’s and Pringles
This is another brand famous for its melon seeds in various flavours, trying to make a flying start in a new segment, using their brand awareness. Potato chips are getting popular in China and Qiaqia has opted to enter this market with chips from another tuber: the Chinese yam (shanyao). This suits the general nationalist trend in China: those foreigners are trying to sell us their potato chips and we counter that with our own yam chips.
Jiebata – A complete breakfast in a pack
Longsheng Food in Shaoguan, Guangdong, is supplying various enriched sandwiches, marketed as a complete breakfast. Here, I am showing the carrot version. Ingredients include carrots, milk and eggs. The name seems to have been derived from Ciabatta. This product is attempting to cash in on the decreasing unwillingness of Chinese young professionals to prepare their own breakfast,
Posted on 14/12/2018
Master Lei brand hawthorn pudding
Hawthorn is a long-time favourite ingredient for sweets in China. I mentioned the traditional North-China tanghulu, skewers of candied hawthorns in my post on Chinese desserts. Present day food technologists can do a lot more with hawthorns. These ‘puddings’ are stacks of layers of darker and lighter coloured sweetened hawthorn paste. They are moist, with a good sour-sweet balance. They go well with cup of tea, Pu’er or Early Grey, hawthorn has no nationalist preferences.
Dehui brand Red Sugar Cakes
As many novel foods in China, these are positioned as a traditional food, but the ingredients list includes a number of texturisers (monoglycerides, phosphor salts, etc.) and sweeteners (sodium cyclamate) that are far from traditional. They are filled with small chunks of sweetened pork.
Maidehao Brand nougat biscuits
What I prefer to call nougat here is ‘almond snow brittle’ in Chinese, a biscuit sandwiched between layers of nougat. However, it is nougat with more than 9% cranberries and more than 8% almonds, and the inevitable additives like ethyl maltol, sodium bicarbonate, flavours, etc. You pay a price for the perfect combination of flavour and texture. The packaging is also beautifully designed. The text on it says: ‘Love is giving you beautiful romance’. Well, it sounds better when read aloud in Chinese.
Posted on 12/12/2018