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.

The rise of China’s new coffee culture

You thought that Chinese were tea drinkers? Get on the next plane to China and see them drinking coffee!

Once upon a time every non-Chinese, when asked about the favourite drink of the Chinese, would answer: tea. Foreigners brought coffee with them and introduced that brew to their Chinese friends and business relations. As a result, a number of Chinese in major port cities, where the foreigners were typically concentrated, acquired a taste for that brew as well. Today, tea is still the leader by a massive margin, though coffee is charging forward in leaps and bounds. Manager Wang of Damin Food (Zhangzhou, Fujian), a manufacturer of instant teas and coffees, still remembers that when he was at university in Zhangzhou, there were at most 10 coffee shops in the entire city. When he moved back a couple of years ago, there was one street alone with 10 coffee houses. That’s how things are changing, and we are starting to see real growth outside the metro cities. A trend towards coffee culture has developed over the last half-decade largely through the influence of cosmopolitan Beijing and Shanghai, the drivers of Chinese fashion. Now, the coffee shop has become a common and popular place that many people of moderate income can afford going to. Statistics show that in 2014, China consumed over 500,000 mt of coffee, and the retail sales volume was near RMB 60 billion. There are 13,600 coffee shops, 2,200 associated companies, and 500,000 industry-related employees throughout China. However, the annual consumption amount per capita in China currently is only 5 cups, far behind 300 cups for Japan and Korea, and the world average of 240 cups. This is due to the fact that coffee consumption is large in the cities, but still small to non-existent in the countryside. There is room for an annual increase rate of 15-20% for the coming years. Young white-collar workers in cities like Beijing and Shanghai consume 100 to 150 cups of coffee annually.

MaanCoffee

Vietnam major source

Vietnamese coffee beans accounted for 49% of those imported by China in 2017. However, other coffee exporting nations like Colombia and Brazil have all set up promotion offices in China. Chinese coffee imports grew by 16% year-on-year in 2017, compared with about 2% in the United States, the world’s largest coffee consumer.

Market on the rise

China’s currently low average rate of coffee consumption, in tandem with its status as the most populous nation on earth, add up to real market potential, especially as sales of ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee products are soaring. Research carried out earlier this year shows that thus far the most significant strides have occurred in the instant coffee market, which reached over US 1 billion in retail sales in 2012. However, since 2011, RTD coffee has consistently boasted the strongest volume growth of any Chinese beverage category. The RTD coffee segment growth of 22%. Fresh coffee, though, remains a niche product. Its demand, due largely to its convenience, is mostly from recent adopters who tend to be unfamiliar with fresh coffee preparation methods and who often lack the appliances needed to make it. In terms of flavour, instant coffee’s ability to be packaged as a mix with sweeter and other additives appeals to the Chinese palate, which generally prefers milder, milkier coffee to the stronger, acid profiles often evoked by fresh coffee. Indeed, the most popular type of instant coffee in China, which accounted for 52% of the segment’s sales in 2012, are three-in-one mixes that include a mix of instant coffee, creamer and sweetener. Nestlé’s Nescafé is the dominant player in both instant and RTD markets, accounting in 2012 for half of the entire RTD market, and just shy of three-quarters of the instant market. While the brand has a global instant share of 46%, its strength in China is unsurprising, though the strength of its RTD sales in the country is very different to its global weight of just 3% share.

The competing forces

According to analysts, currently, on China’s coffee shop market, there are three distinct competing forces: Chinese domestic, European and American, and Korean and Japanese. They are engaging in different strategies to strengthen themselves. For instance, Sculpting in Time is trying to take the advantage of e-commerce. In December 2014, it established a professional coffee website, Hello Coffee, where visitors can see all relevant information about coffee making and consumption. Hello Coffee says it is China’s first B2C coffee website. Starbucks places more emphasis on fast coffee serving in the shop. It also takes measures to encourage consumption outside of the coffee shop. Mid 2018, Starbucks is present in 147 Chinese cities with a total of 3362 outlets, including 7 cities with 100+ outlets. Shanghai is the largest with 663 stores. Starbucks has announced that it intends to run 6000 outlets by 2022. Costa Coffee, a British multinational, plans to open 900 more stores in China by 2020, which will give it 1344 shops in the country.

Korean coffee shops are dedicated to business alliance. What is more, Korean coffee shops, such as Caffe Bene, Maan Coffee and Zoo Coffee, have entered China’s market. However, this business alliance mode does not seem to work smoothly. In the course of 2015, Caffe Bene started to show cash flow problems and soon the Chinese mother company stopped injecting further capital in the venture. You can still see several Caffe Bene outlets operating in Beijing, but shops in other cities have closed down one after another. Insiders believe that the chain will disappear complete during the first months of 2016. Zoo Coffee is also reporting problems in developing the Chinese market. The management has decided to quit the franchising system and only operate wholly owned outlets. It has also stated that it wants to alter its ‘Korean’ image to avoid Zoo Coffee running in the same problems as Caffe Bene.

Industry insiders believe that chain coffee shops should be prepared to face the challenges from fast-food restaurants and convenience stores as well as milk tea stores. According to these analysts, coffee shops should focus on their unique service rather than size, since consumers might stay there for a long time, thus increasing their operating costs. Also, they suggest coffee shops host some activities in order to boost their business and advertise themselves. Actually, there is also a third force emerging in this market: the private coffee shop. It needs a lot of courage, but there are single Chinese coffee entrepreneurs who do not want to tie themselves to one of the big names and set up their own, often single-store, coffee shop. One of my favourites is Taoyuan Miaoji, located in an alley opposite the main gate of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). It is an ideal spot for a quiet talk with friends.

TiaoyuanMiaoji

Starbucks as measure for development

The site Dudihui is a blog consisting of infographics about Beijing. A blog posted mid 2018 compares the size and development of the various districts of Beijing. One of the dimensions in that infographic is the number of Starbucks outlets in the district. It is shown in the following picture.

It is the strongest sign of the symbolic value of coffee shops on present day China. An interesting detail is that the Chaoyang Distr. with its foreign embassies and CBD has more coffee shops that the university district Haidian.

The German connection: from Hannover to Changde

Coffee is often associated with Italy, but Germany has played an outsized role in its history too. The paper filter was invented by a Dresden housewife, and the city of Emmerich am Rhein was home to one of the first automated drum roaster. Now, there’s another reason to turn to Deutschland for your java fix, with the arrival of Hanover Coffee in China. Founded by Andreas Berndt in 2011, the former marketing man opened the first premium coffee bar and bean shop in Hanover, which has since grown to supply private customers, high-class hotels, restaurants, companies, and cafés in Germany with over 30 different types of coffee beans. Last year, Berndt’s sons, Fabian and Flemming, came out to China to set up their first overseas branch. Now operating out of a roastery in Changde, Hunan province, where a ‘German Town’ has been erected (the photo shows the roastering plant in that town). They use a the medium roast, also known as a Vienna roast, which is not too light or dark. The coffee beans are roasted at around 190 degrees Celsius, or as low as possible, to preserve the full aroma. They use a Probat drum roaster from Germany. Their green beans are checked in Germany before they’re shipped to China and checked again.

Luckin Coffee – playing the nationalist card . . . and loosing

The nationalist trend in Chinese politics is also entering the fierce competition in the coffee market. Newcomer Luckin (Ruixin) Coffee, with its HQ in the coastal city of Xiamen, opened 525 stores in the first four months of 2018. It has wooed more than 1.3 million customers and created an internet frenzy by challenging coffee giant Starbucks. With investment of more than RMB 1 billion from Lu Zhengyao, CEO of car rental company Ucar Inc, and other founding members, Luckin Coffee aims to grab some of Starbucks’ market share with a combination of delivery services, lower prices and smaller-sized stores-a brand strategy it calls Any Moment. Qian Zhiya, CEO and founder of Luckin Coffee, and previously an executive at UCar, said the goal is to offer Chinese consumers an alternative to Starbucks. “The market will not only have Starbucks. Every country has their own coffee brand,” Qian said. Luckin Coffee said their secret ingredient for creating “a decent cup of coffee” is their select Arabica coffee beans, world-leading coffee machines and professional baristas. Of its stores already in operation, 294 are brick-and-mortar cafes between 30 to 50 square meters in size. Some 231 receive delivery orders only. Qian said, in the future the delivery kitchens will comprise less than 15% of the total. Luckin is also using high tech to distinguish itself.

Luckin Coffee even started to involve the courts in its competition with Starbucks in May 2018. Luckin accused Starbucks of monopolistic activities, because it prohibits owners of properties in which it has set up shop to also sell space to competitors. This case will be hard to win for Luckin, as I can name numerous locations in various cities in China where Costa Coffee or Pacific Coffee have opened outlets very close to a Starbucks shop. However, it will be interesting to see how the court reacts. It seems as if Luckin is trying to cash in on the nationalist trend in China, emphasising the foreign nature of Starbucks.

Luckin Coffee announced on July 11, 2018 that it had raised USD 200 million in a fundraising round that values the company at USD 1 billion. Investors are said to include Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC. The company intends to open another 2500 outlets in 2019.

Lucking Coffee got listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchanges in 2019. It priced its initial public offering at $17 per share. However, in March 2020, the company came out with an announcement that its COO Liu Jian fabricated more than USD 310 mln worth of transactions in 2019, almost half of the company’s roughly $732 million in sales of that year. The NASDAQ decided to oust Luckin in June 2020.

More domestic coffee entrepreneurs are following the example of Lucking Coffee. A newcomer worth watching is Coffee Box. This chain emphasises coffee drinking as a total experience. Coffee Box picks business districts of major cities as the locations for its ‘experience shops’. A more locally concentrated chain is Buzztime Coffee in Shanghai. This chain opens relatively small outlets in areas where restaurants and small shops are concentrated, as a more homely alternative for the more crowded and noisy coffee shops. Shanghai-based Unibrown Coffee (2017), owned by Shanghai Jiajia Electronics, is playing the high-end ‘specialty coffee’ card. Greybox Coffee (2017) and Soloist fall in the same category, but then geared to those who are passionate about coffee. Soloist baristas do not want to be addressed with ‘waiter (fuwuyuan)’ but with ‘coffee master (kafeishi)’, in an effort to link the Chinese term for barista to their own brand. A lesser known newcomer is Beijing-based Coffee08. Minicoffee (Xiaojia) specialises in milk coffees. Uin Coffee positions itself as a high tech coffee maker. ParCoffee is also based in Shanghai, with its most famous coffee cup shaped outlet near Huashi Plaza. The number and speed of new coffee concepts launched in China is so high, that keeping this post up-to-date is a genuine challenge. A catching feature of Fish Eye Coffee (see following photo) is filter coffee; you can watch your brew appear drip by drip.

Uin Coffee (2018) seems to concentrate on high-end office buildings. It als operates coffee vending machines. Coffee Now (2015) is China’s first producer of cups like those of Nespresso. Seesaw Coffee (2017) is once more Shanghai-based, aiming at coffee lovers preferring a quiet elegant ambiance.

Saturn coffee: instant coffee in a cup

Hunan’s provincial capital Changsha is a growing coffee city in China. One typical phenomenon of Changsha is the large number of tiny coffee shops, with only place for 3 – 4 customers at a time. It is also the home of the creator of a new type of instant coffee: Saturn Bird. The company came up with a breakthrough an instant coffee that completely dissolves within a few seconds. No stirring required. It adopted bright, eye-catching (and recyclable) packaging for its coffee pods. Late 2019, Saturnbird Coffee consecutively completed Series A and Series A+ rounds of funding, led by Tiantu Capital, securing RMB tens of millions. FreesFund invested in the preceding round of financing, which was valued at RMB 10 mln.

Medicinal coffee

Coffee has become such a lucrative product, that even an old established traditional Chinese pharmacy like Tongrentang has started a medicinal cafe that serves various types of coffee enriched with medicinal herbs.

Strategic alliances

Strategic alliances are one way for foreign players to get a foothold in the Chinese market. Lavazza is cooperating with the shopping mall chain Parkson in operating a chain called Coffii & Joy.

Coffee on the road

A huge, and still growing, market for coffee in China is: the express way. China’s network of express ways is still growing and so is the number of Chinese going on self-drive holidays. Gas stations along the express ways have turned into full-grown resting areas, often including several restaurants and shops. Coffee is a good way to stay alert behind the wheel, so gas stations have become a place for coffee shops and coffee vending machines. Sinopec, one of China’s top gasoline makers and distributors, has started a coffee brand of its own, called Easy Joy, to complement the services in its own gas stations. To reinforce the ‘gasoline image’ of the chain, it advertises its coffees with octane numbers: ’92 95 08′.

Coffee without baristas

Laibei Kafei (2015), a transliteration of the Chinese expression for ‘give me a cup of coffee’, is China’s first supplier of coffee vending machines. Supermarkets, shopping malls, etc., can place them in suitable locations to provide coffee to their patrons,  with all the issues that come with establishing a coffee corner with life baristas.

New coffee shop adds modern flavour to Palace Museum

The Palace Museum opened a coffee shop for the modern-day guests of Chinese emperors over the weekend-the Corner Tower Cafe-and it quickly became a hot spot for visitors, bringing traditional cultural heritage closer to the younger generation. The cafe serves more than 30 kinds of coffee, tea and other drinks-priced between 22 and 45 yuan-for 40 guests at a time. Visitors don’t have to buy tickets for the museum to enter the cafe. Officials said a restaurant, also called Corner Tower, will open soon near the museum entrance. This move is slightly controversial. Some years ago, Starbucks was not allowed to open an outlet in the Palace Museum, because ‘a coffee shop does not fit into that historic ambiance’.

Lots of cash but little time

RTDs and instant products are driving coffee’s ascendency, perhaps because, as we are informed often, the Chinese are becoming increasingly cash rich and time poor. While this is clearly a marketer’s dream statement, largely designed to flatter consumers into believing the hype, it is also reflective of the coffee market. Chinese don’t have time any more to learn to brew real coffee. It’s just quicker and easier to empty a three-in-one sachet and add water or open a bottle. For consumers, it takes too long to grind the beans and brew the coffee. People like things that are mixed already. However, this is more by culture than necessity. Ever since Nestlé opened up China’s pre-mixed powder market with Nestea relatively recently, consumers have got in the habit of keeping things simple. According to Damin’s Wang, instant coffee volumes have been growing slowly, with an increase in consumption that is nowhere near as fast as is being found in coffee shops. “[Malaysian brand] Old Town White Coffee has played a big part in pushing instant coffee to China. Before that, there was only one real choice over the past few years, and that was Nestlé. Now we have many more brands, both good and bad,” says Wang. It’s safe to say that tea is not currently under any threat from the rise of the coffee granule, and its market is still growing. Indeed, China is forecast to account for half of all global growth in tea demand through to 2017, according to Rabobank, and tastes are changing among traditionalists too. Wang, whose company also supplies tea to trade customers, says ice tea has been the packaged segment leader, though its prominence is slipping. “The most popular tea drink is ice tea, though this in in decline because unsweetened or zero-calorie teas are on the rise as people become more aware of health issues,” he says. “Traditional tea drinking continues to increase, though. And now young people have the opportunity to choose what they need, be it packaged tea, three-in-one coffee or traditional China tea. “Coffee needs about 10 more years to grow before it becomes a big market in China.”

Expensive tastes

While coffee is a staple everyday purchase for most office workers in the UK, it is considered a premium product in China and is a luxury out of reach of most average workers. In Starbucks, a medium latte is RMB 30. Starbucks has come under fire by state media in China for their high prices, especially as the cost of doing business is generally considered to be cheaper in China. The average monthly wage in Shanghai is RMB 5891, less than a third of the average wage in London, making a RMB 30RMB cup of coffee a luxury most can’t afford. However, a high price is considered a sign of quality in China. The more expensive the better. There is still this concept in China, and Starbucks and Costa realise this. They want to brand themselves as premium chains, that’s why they price slightly higher in China. Most of the coffee on sale in coffee outlets in China comes from imported beans. However, China is also growing as a producer of coffee, with the majority grown in Yunnan province in southern China. You can read more about that in my special post on coffee and tea in Pu’er.

From 2017, several new coffee shop chains have popped up in China. Most of them position themselves in the higher end of the business. A good example of this type of coffee shops is Greybox Coffee that likes to set up shop in business districts in major cities. Japanese niche coffee shop Doutor has also set up shop in China, in a joint venture with a local partner TANSH Global Food Group which runs the Shanghai Min and Maison De L’Hui restaurants. With a 65% stake in the venture, Shanghai-based TANSH facilitates Doutor’s mainland operations.

   

China has also started to export coffee. In 2017, China exported $237 million of coffee beans. As of June of 2019, China has exported around 1.4 million 60-kilogram bags of green coffee beans. Export of green coffee beans shows a stable growth, as quality is improving.

Coffee exchange

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone has just established a Coffee Exchange Centre to boost the China trade for what is the oldest intercontinentally traded commodity in the world. It is not compulsory for companies to trade in the center, but those which do will benefit from Free Trade Zone’s duty-free and foreign exchange policies. By the end of 2015, both companies and individual customers will be able to buy coffee beans on the center’s website. The new center is projected to conduct transactions worth RMB 120 billion by 2018, and aims to overtake Singapore as Asia’s largest coffee exchange.

Nostalgic coffee

Besides the wide array of international and domestic coffee chains that are popping up in China’s major cities, some coffee places of the old days are being revived. A recent example is White Horse Coffee, a coffee shop established in the Jewish quarter of Shanghai, when a large number of Jewish refugees settled there in the 1930s. Hongkou district’s government decided to rebuild the “White Horse Coffee” as part of Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum’s extended exhibitions. The new “White Horse Coffee” will be located opposite the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. The design and decoration of the new “White Horse Coffee” will stay as close to the original as possible to provide a glimpse into the life of Jewish refugees of that period.

Ethnic coffee

A Tibet-inspired coffee shop, Charu, has recently opened in Chengdu (Sichuan). The place is spacious, outfitted with aged wood panels, edgy houseplants, and dangling Edison-style bulbs. It’s staffed by young people and the couches are upholstered in different shades of blue—the sort of patterns you would expect from a swanky Malibu patio by the beach. The word charu refers to the toggle that links yaks together, according to Tsehua, one of the owners. It connects the tents and the yaks together. Like the charu, this cafe to connect people together.

Tsehua comes from a family of nomadic herders from Hongyuan County in the Amdo Region of Tibet, located in modern-day Sichuan. They live in black tents fashioned from yak hair and rotate around the grasslands according to the seasons.

CharuCoffee

Charu has a beverage menu of yak-based drinks—among which is yak milk coffee, decorated with the cafe’s logo. The milk is brought in weekly, sent overnight from Tsehua’s nomadic village of Hongyuan. There’s yogurt, which is made in the same place, and as an option, it can be supplemented with highland barley and raisins. The menu also features a juice squeezed from sea buckthorn, a berry from the Himalayas that tastes like a cross between a mango and an orange.

It is this type of new hip spaces that multinationals like Haagen-Dazs find it hard to compete with recently. The ice cream maker has started cooperating with Illy in China. Its outlets can now also function as alternative for the crowded coffee shops.

Coffee as metaphor

Coffee has now become so popular, that the word is gradually transforming into a symbol for a modern leisurely lifestyle. A traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) store in Hangzhou (Zhejiang) has developed ‘herbal coffee‘ to wrap that traditional product in a modern package.

Coffee as flavouring

As coffee is growing more and more popular, many Chinese producers of foods and beverages are developing coffee flavoured varieties of their products. A good example in an earlier post is: coffee flavoured plums.

Snack producer Sanquan (Zhengzhou, Henan) has launched a coffee-flavoured zongzi in 2018.

One of my personal favourites is affogato, one or two scoops of basic vanilla icecream soaked in strong espresso. I first found it in China in some häagen-dazs outlets, but was not impressed by it, mainly because the coffee wasn’t strong enough. I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent affogato in a new (not yet opened) hotel at the north end of Wangfujing Street in Beijing during in September 2018.

Chinese investment in Argentina

A Chinese investor based in China’s northernmost city Harbin (Heilongjiang) is investigating the possibilities of investing in a 400 hectares coffee farm in Argentina, in cooperation with a local overseas Chinese partner. The coffee is to be roasted in Harbin, using technology imported from Brazil. I will keep you informed about the developments of this project. The Harbin region currently consumes about 60 mt of coffee beans per year.

Coffee Expo in Hainan

2017 Hainan International Coffee Congress and Beverage Expo (2017 ICoffee Expo) will be held 1 – 3 Dec., 2017 at Hainan International Convention & Exhibition Center and Haikou Marriott Hotel. The event aims at high-end, internationalisation, and professionalisation. In the background of international positive response to the Belt & Road (OBOR) Initiative, Hainan, as the beginning station of Maritime Silk Road along which line locates considerable coffee growers is recognized with its coffee products and relevant cultural communication.

More than coffee

Coffee has now become such an important item in the lives of more and more Chinese that domestic coffee companies have started looking at expanding their activities to related products. Hogood Coffee (Yunnan) announced the development of a healthier alternative for vegetable fat, the main ingredient for coffee creamers, based on walnut protein.

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 that vast nation.

Medicine Food Same Source

This is a literal translation of the Chinese expression yao shi tong yuan, which indicates that in the traditional Chinese perception food and medicine are substances derived from the same raw materials. There is a strong link (overlap) between pharmaceuticals and food in traditional Chinese thinking about food, nutrition and preventing/curing disease.

The function of many medicinal plants is often referred to as restore (bu) in Chinese. Medicine brings the diseased body in balance again. The various basic flavours are also accredited medicinal functions.

One consequence of this view on food and medicine is the existence of medicinal restaurants in China. You can tell the cook about your ailments, and he will compose a meal with ingredients that address those problems. This is called yaoshan, ‘medicinal meal’, or shiliao, ‘cure through eating’, in Chinese, again a combination of medicine and food.

This part of the Chinese cultural heritage has a strong influence on Chinese policy making. A good example is the Chinese government’s strong attention to promoting public nutrition. While most Western governments believe that promoting fortified foods is misleading the public from a more healthy diet, the Chinese authorities are actively promoting fortified foods. See our special item about that topic.

If you think that the modernization and the increased influence of Western thinking in China will make this belief in the healing power of food disappear, you are very wrong. On the contrary, we have seen a number of foods fortified with traditional Chinese medicinal herbs appear on the market. An example is honey fortified with dangshen (radix codonopsis), a ginseng-like root. Ginseng itself is also more and more used as an ingredient in Chinese dishes.

The national authorities have issued a list of 87 TCM herbs that are allowed as food ingredients.

Nutritional beverages

TCM has especially inspired the development of a range of health drinks. I will mention a couple of the most representative here.

Stewed pear

Cansi’s (Nengshi) “stewed pear with rock sugar is positioned as an ancient folk recipe that has been spread for thousands of years throughout China”. Some of the claims the product makes are to “lubricate lungs” and to “relieve stress”, with pears playing an integral role in traditional Chinese medicine. The product also has TCM ingredients, such as honeysuckle and lily extract.

StewPear

Yam drink

Natural Source’s Wall Breaking Yam Juice earns it name from the technology it uses. With its yam juice processing, it’s claimed that superior technology can break the cell wall to release additional molecules for nutrition value. The result is that when consumed, it increases the absorption rate by 80%. Yam is one of many traditional Chinese medicinal ingredients that are being processed, combined with other flavours and packaged for modern times.

YamDrink

Biscuits and water for stomach problems

The Jiangzhong Pharmaceutical Group, that became famous for its successful TCM drug against stomach ailments due to indigestion, has launched a biscuit with extracts from the hericium erinaceus fungus in 2015. It is an age old ingredient in Chinese cuisine and an equally old raw material for TCM drugs against problems in the entire digestive tract.

Hougu

Early 2020, instant noodle maker Jinmailang launched a new type of bottled water that has been pre-boiled. It is marketed under the brand name Liangbaikai. This literally means ‘Cool Clear Boiled’ and has been derived from the Chinese expression ‘cool boiled water’, i.e. boiled water cooled down to an agreeable drinking temperature. According to TCM, such water is much better absorbed by the human body than tap water or other types of bottled water. The ad states that this water ‘is more suitable to the guts and stomachs of the Chinese’.

Military participation

Chinese military researchers are are also developing modern applications for traditional herbs. An interesting item we have spotted in this category is an ‘antiradiation biscuit’, a biscuit with the extracts of five Chinese medicinal ingredients. It has been developed for military use, but has also been made available to the general public. We have not yet found it on any supermarket shelf though.

The Wuhan College of Military Economy has develop a type of biscuit that can increase the body’s oxygen level and alleviate fatigue for 48 hours. The recipe includes a number of herbs from traditional Chinese medicine. Once more, this product has been developed for use by soldiers, but it will also have an interesting market in tourist destinations in high elevations, like Tibet. Problems caused by oxygen deficiency often spoils part of the fun among tourists in such regions.

Herbal coffee

One way for TCM to redefine itself to fit into the present age is to link up with a popular beverage like coffee. A time-honoured traditional Chinese medicine store Huqingyutang has opened a cafe named “HERBS EXPRESSO” to sell ‘coffee’ in Hangzhou (Zhejiang). Unlike regular coffee, which is extracted from coffee beans, the cafe’s ‘coffee’ is sourced from herbs and processed with a coffee machine. Actually, the ‘coffee’ is a coffee-flavoured herbal drink, the cafe’s manager said. Mixing fresh fruits, milk and cream, the taste of the new herbal drink is better than the traditional herbal soup. “By improving the taste of herbal drinks, we want to promote traditional Chinese medicine culture to the world,” the manager added.

HerbCoffee

Under the weather? Go to the pub!

Tongrentang Group, a renowned traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy, founded in 1669, has opened two fusion cafes that offer drinks and healthcare services in Beijing in 2020. The cafe provides different kinds of coffee drinks that are infused with herbs such as licorice, monk fruit and cinnamon. It also offers various teas that are mixed with Chinese wolfberry (goji) and grapefruit. The cafe also has an area where shoppers can buy featured products such as honey, goji, cubilose (bird’s nest) and ginseng. Tongrentang plans to open 50 flagship stores in major cities nationwide in the next five years to offer comprehensive healthcare consulting services. On top of that, it will open more than 3000 landmark cafes in major commercial areas.

Foreign interest

Multinationals have started to note this development as well. Lipton is marketing a tea on the Chinese market with extracts from Chrysanthemum, honeysuckle and lily. The tea is named: Qing heng cha, ‘clearing balance tea’.

BalanceTea

I will list the ingredients and add the various activities attributed to them according to the Chinese Materia Medica:

Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

  • Clear heat, relieve toxic fire – hot, painful swellings in the throat, breast, eyes; intestinal abscesses.
  • Expel wind-heat – fever, aversion to wind, sore throat, headache; also for summer-heat.
  • Clear damp heat from the lower jiao – dysentery, lin syndrome.

Chrysanthenum

  • Disperses wind, clears heat (bitter, cold) – headache, fever.
  • Clears liver and the eyes (sweet, cold) – wind-heat in the liver channel manifesting with red, painful, dry eyes or excessive tearing, or yin deficiency of the kidneys and liver with floaters, blurry vision, or dizziness.

Green tea

I wonder why Unilever has not yet started marketing this range (there or more such teas available on the Chinese market).

Meanwhile, the famous Pu’er tea from Yunnan is also marketed worldwide a slimming aid and a way to lower blood lipids.

Example of a foods that are ascribed medicinal functions according to TCM in this blog are: dates (jujubes) , lotus pods, sea cucumbers, and dried plums (huamei). Examples of foods enriched with medicinal ingredients introduced in this blog are: moon cakes and some military food.

TCM and COVID-19

Traditional Chinese Medicine has played an important role in the treatment of COVID-19 infections. Clinical treatment shows that several kinds of TCM used during the outbreak in China helped reduce illness in patients and improve the cure rate, according to Li Yu, director of the Department of Science and Technology, National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the next step, TCM treatment can be used for patients in the recovery stage. This is the stage in which TCM herbal compounds gradually change from pure medicines to health supplements.

TCM in animal feed

A new development is the use of selected TCM herbs as ingredients for animal feed. Practitioners in China have prescribed bitter blends of medicinal plants and herbs for centuries to ward off disease in humans. Now, farmers are adapting the age-old elixirs — a dash of ginseng here, a speck of licorice there — for use on livestock. They’re hoping to tap into the growing popularity of traditional medicine and health food in Chinese society. The expected results are not only delicious but healthy: lean, juicy meats that can protect against colds, arthritis and other illnesses. A Guangxi farmer began mixing 22 kinds of herbs into the daily feed for his livestock several years ago. The pigs that he raises sell for more than double the price of ordinary pigs, and some customers even eat his meats instead of taking medicine. Farmers like Mr. Lin hope that China’s increasingly health-conscious middle class will help bring medicinal meats into the mainstream. The health-food market in China reached $1 trillion last year, and it is expected to grow 20% annually for the next several years.

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

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