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.


Sour is the new sweet in China – young Chinese food scientists play with vinegar

Vinegar, i.e. the Chinese cereals-based vinegar, has been an important ingredient in Chinese cuisine for ages. A famous application is vinegar-based dipping for dumplings.

Vinegar is a growth product in China, although only 30% of the output is branded vinegar with the remaining 70% workshop-style factories. Insiders estimate that the 2020 turnover of the Chinese vinegar industry can reach RMB 13.42 billion; up from RMB 4.017 billion in 2013.

A traditionally important vinegar region is Shanxi province. Qingxu county in Shanxi is often referred to as the ‘vinegar capital‘ of China.

However, it was not regarded as something for direct consumption by most Chinese, who preferred their snacks and soft drinks sweet, sweeter, sweetest. Until recently, that is. The past 2 – 3 years have seen a surge in so called ‘vinegar beverages’ (cuyinliao). These are mildly acid drinks made of naturally acidified fruit juice (apple vinegar is the top product in this category) or drinks produced by mixing vinegar with other ingredients. These products are advertised as healthier choices than the traditional sugary drinks.

This product group has grown so rapidly, that China’s top vinegar producer, Hengshun, with 83.8% market share in 2018, has organised a competition for students of food science in various Chinese universities to design new types of drinks, but also foods, based on vinegar. The various products the next generation of Chinese food scientists came up with is so interesting, that I will list the top products in this post.

First prize

Apple Vinegar drink


As introduced above, this is not a new type of drink, but the jury still awarded it the first prize due its innovative production process. Apples are first baked to the pectin of the apples in small active molecules and increase flavour through the maillard reaction. The juice is then fermented twice.

Second prizes

Cuxian-xian (literally: Vinegar Fibre – Fibre)


Arrowroot starch is fermented with Acetobacter xylinus to obtain a high fibre refreshing drink.

Hua Young fruit fibre and probiotics effervescent tablets


These are ascribed a medicinal function: increasing appetite and relieving bowel and stomach trouble.

Water melon double vinegar


This drink consists of two varieties made from the flesh and skin of water melon, hence the two colours.

Third prizes

Vinegar strawberries


These are preserved strawberries made with Hengshun vinegar and honey.

Cranberry flavoured healthy plum vinegar


Green plums (qingmei) are fermented and flavoured with cranberries, resulting in a refreshing sweet and sour beverage.

Konjac vinegar jelly


Fruit jelly has been a favourite snack all over Asia for the past few years, and this product adds an innovative new member to the already extended family of fruit jellies.

Vinegar love


Fruit juice is mixed with white vinegar and flavoured with flower petals, resulting in romantic colours.

Hengshun crispy bones


Crispy bones are soaked in Hengshun vinegar giving the bones a sweet and sour taste. It is chewy and rich in calcium.

Most innovative prizes

Filled thousand layer vinegar


Crackers are filled with a combination of jam and Hengshun vinegar. It is positioned as a healthy snack.

Lactobacillus in vinegar


Lactobacillus is added to traditional vinegar. The strain is acid and heat resistant. It enhances the antioxidant activity of the vinegar.

Best packaging prize

Vinegar lotus eggs


Soft sweet lotus pod is flavour with a mixture of sardines and Hengshun vinegar and a touch of chili sauce, producing sweet & sour crispy fish balls.

Best marketing prize

Xiaoxixi (laugh hi hi) vinegar milk


Formulated milk drinks are already popular in China. Milk is mixed with pineapple vinegar, creating a kind of yoghurt with a unique flavour.

Not all of these products will make it to the shelves of Chinese supermarkets, but this list provides a rare glimpse into the perception of young Chinese food scientists.

Apart from this contest, vinegar-flavoured icecream has appeared in China as well in the course of 2018. This photo has been taken in Taiyuan (Shanxi).

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

New foods launched in China in 2015

Innovative product launches in China is one of my favourite themes in this blog. You can find lots of them in various posts. While we all know that China currently is the world’s largest growing market for food ingredients, both for exporting and sourcing, what is still less known is that no region on the globe sees so many new foods and drinks being launched as China. And innovation in end products is a major creator of demand for new ingredients.

In this last post of 2015, I have delved in the news items on new products that I have retained during my daily scanning of the news streams from China. Apparently, I believed these products were somehow worth saving. Well, I am presenting the to you, my readers, today. Please don’t feel obliged to like them as I did when I saved them. However, please also do not judge them too quickly as funny or useless. Instead, try to see them as reflections of how Chinese food technologists think about developing new foods, drinks, or ingredients.

An interesting finding, after arranging the novel products according to market segment, is that dairy company Mengniu stands out as China’s top food innovator of 2015.

As for time of launching, there seems to be no real favourite month or season for putting new products on the market. However, there are now launches found for the final quarter of 2015. Perhaps the winter blues are affecting food technologists in China.

Moving on to region, Beijing and Inner Mongolia come out on top with 3 launches each. However, all new products of the latter have been launched by one company: Mengniu. A distinctive feature of the new foods and drinks from Beijing is that most of them have been developed in cooperation with a research institute or university. Using the traditional Chinese division between North (of the Yangtze River) and South, nearly all (13 out of 15) of the novel products have been launched in the North. Considering that the home town of Mengniu, Huhhot, is located close to Beijing, as is Tianjin, then almost half (7) of the products have been developed within a large circle around Beijing.

I wish you all the best for 2016 and can assure you that new posts will appear here as frequently as in the year behind us.

Primary produce

Selenium strawberries

The Yegu Group (Beijing) has put the first batch of its selenium enriched strawberries on the market. The Yegu Group has been cooperating with the Beijing Bureau for Agriculture in the development of this product. Apart from the additional fortification with selenium, these strawberries are also produced biologically. High selenium fruits and vegetables are usually produced by adding selenium to the fertiliser, or growing them on selenium rich soil. (February)

Cereals and staples

Potato mantou – a revolution in Chinese staple food

In case you have forgotten what mantou are, please revisit my dedicated post introducing this exciting product. The China Academy for Agricultural Sciences and Haileda Food (Beijing) have jointly developed a type mantou that consists for 30% of potato. This is yet another step in the process of changing the potato into a major staple of Chinese cuisine (also see my post on that topic). The researchers have announced that they next step in this R&D project is to increase the percentage of potato to 40% and then to 50%. Other potato products will also be developed, like: noodles, or bread. (June)

Meat and derivatives

New duck blood products

Huaying Cherry Valley (Xinyang, Henan) is investing in improving duck blood processing. The company has a special subsidiary to develop a range of products from duck blood, including blood powder and blood bean curd. The company produced more than 10,000 mt of duck blood in 2014. This is an interesting example of how a traditional food can be successfully developed into a commercially produced product. Interested in learning more about duck products: see my post on that topic. (April)


Mengniu launches cereal milk

Mengniu Dairy (Huhhot, Inner Mongolia) has launched a version of its DeLuxe milk mixed with cereals. It is marketed as the ideal food for office people who have to work late. DeLuxe is Mengniu’s range of milk products fortified with osteoblast milk protein. (January)

Mengniu launches yoghurt ice cream

Mengniu Dairy has launched a line of yoghurt ice cream under the Dilan brand. Mengniu intends to position this ice cream as a healthy food choice. I mentioned this product in an earlier post, focusing on the innovative advertising. (August)


Mengniu launches new organic formula

Mengniu Dairy has launched a new type of organic infant formula under the Ruipu’en brand on June 5. With this move, Mengniu hopes to better compete with the international brands. According to analysts, the launch of this new product is a logic next step after Mengniu’s acquisition of Junlebao (2010) and Yashili (2013). The company’s focus is clearly moving from a general supplier of dairy products, to one of high end infant formulae. (June)


Milking a new dairy product

Yukunlun Natural Food Engineering Co., Ltd. (Xinjiang) has launched donkey milk powder as a consumer product. CEO Zhang Ming has spent RMB 70 mln developing donkey milk-related products since 2007. So far, he has managed to break even on his investment. Zhang buys donkey milk from farmers at RMB 28 per kg. The retail price for donkey milk powder is around RMB 4000 per kg, double the price of imported cow milk powder, according to Zhang. (May)

Non-alcoholic beverages

New mineral water

A new manufacturer of mineral water, Dipu Beverage Co., Ltd. (Yanling, Henan), has been established. Its water is said to be rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. (September)

Prickly pear juice

Shengshang Green Food Co., Ltd. (Yangling, Shaanxi) has launched a line of prickly pear juice drinks. The plant has a capacity of 30,000 hls p.a. The prickly pear (Rosa roxbunghii) is a local product, but has so far not been used for industrial processing. (August)


Alcoholic beverages

New apple wine producer

The joint apple wine project of the Shanghai-based Famous Wines Net and Lanhai Fruit Co., Ltd. (Shaanxi), Malanshan Apple Wine, has started production. The current capacity is 12,000 hls of wine p.a. The plant has a storage capacity of 16,000 hls. This figures are expected to rise to 20,000 hls and 32,000 hls respectively by 2016. Apple wine is positioned as a healthier alternative for the spirits that usually drunk in the Shaanxi region. Shaanxi is one of China’s major apple regions. The traditional product in that sector is apple juice concentrate for export. However, this market is very volatile and adding another product, that is also marketable in China would be welcome. (May)

Cocktails gaining popularity

Bairun Flavour & Fragrance (Shanghai) has announced that it will increase its investment in its subsidiary Tianjin Cocktail (Tianjin) from RMB 280 to 500 mln for the production of the Rio range of cocktails. The reason for this decision is the sharply increased demands for ready to drink cocktails. Shanghai Bacchus, one of the leading companies in the Chinese alcopop market, has increased its purchase of Bairun cocktails to 6 438,400 cases in 2014, 8 times the volume of 2013. Note that another innovative aspect of this item is that it is initiated by a producers of flavours, rather than one of alcoholic beverages (July). In 2017, Bairun’s turnover was RMB 1.17 bln, 87.81% of which was derived from the sales of Rio.


Yanjing wheat beer

Yanjing Brewing (Beijing) has launched China’s first wheat (white) beer. The company uses Australian barley and wheat malt in the ratio 55:45. (August)

Arrowroot wine

Fushangfu Arrowroot Wine Co. (Zhanyi, Yunnan) has launched a new type of arrowroot wine, using locally produced arrowroot as raw material. The wine is marketed as a health drink rich in flavones, amino acids and puerarin. It also contains amounts of zinc. calcium and iron. (February)



Banana powder

Chengli Group (Hainan) is the first in China to launch a banana powder to be used as a food ingredient. It is not only a useful flavor, but simultaneously adds many nutrients a food. It can be used in beverages, cakes, ice cream, candy and even infant formula is mentioned as a possible food that can be enriched with this banana powder. (January)

Low salt yeast extract

Angel Yeast (Yichang, Hubei) has launched low salt yeast extracts as an ideal means to lower salt in many types of food. Angel’s food engineers have performed a series of tests with various levels of salt to arrive at the lowest salt level at which the taste enhancing function of the yeast extract is still not harmed. (March)

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