From extremely popular to off the shelves – fruit jelly flirting with consumers to recoup their market
People with experience in Asia probably know the stuff: brightly coloured fruit flavoured jelly in small plastic cups. Chinese women, as well as their sisters from many other East Asian nations, cannot get enough of fruit jellies. You rip off the sealing foil and suck the entire jelly into your mouth. There, it will start melting instantly and you can enjoy (if fruit jelly is your thing) the feeling as if you have just taken a huge sip of fruit juice. The effect is partly caused by a mixture of texturisers, flavours and colourants, but who cares. Well, parents did, when a few children almost choked to death on the things.
You need to be careful when giving them to younger children. Even though they melt quickly in the oral cavity, if you suck with so much enthusiasm that the thing ends up in your windpipe, you are in trouble. A number of such incidents happened and Chinese retailers reacted in a very Chinese way: they took all fruit jellies from the shelves. That radical measure will certainly protect the children, but is a big blow to the producers. And the market is huge. It has grown into an RMB 25 billion industry, with about 300 serious manufacturers in China alone. They want their market back and who would dare to blame them.
The original thing
Before I look at how some manufacturers are trying to win back the market, let’s have a look at the original standard fruit jelly. The main ingredients of fruit jelly are:
fruit juice, carrageenan, konjac sodium alginate, water and sugar.
Production is relatively easy. Just mix the ingredients, fill it into the cups, close the cups, refrigerate to set and you can package and dispatch them.
Fruit jelly is obviously not a very nutritious food. However, it is still better than the average candy. It does not contain much fat and some of the texturisers used are dietary fibre that helps the bowel function.
Insiders distinguish four types of fruit jelly producers.
The big players for whom fruit jelly is their core product; like market leader Xizhilang (22.1% market share in 2019);
Candy makers that also produce fruit jelly; like Hsufuchi (introduced in another post in this blog about biscuits; 2.8% market share) or Want Want (introduced in various posts about beverages; 5.5% market share);
Specialist food companies for which fruit jelly fits in the product line; like pudding maker Qiaomama (Clever Mummy) that specialises in pudding for children (see the Trends page of this blog).
Local companies supplying their own regional market.
Taiwan-based manufacturer of leisure food Want Want seems to be leading these efforts by launching a number of varieties that call for a slightly different way of consuming fruit jellies, thus reducing the risk of choking.
Soft puddings do not contain trans-fat and have a protein content of more than 1.1 g/100g. They are chewier than the traditional fruit jellies and therefore invite to bite and chew on, rather than sucking them in at once.
Li means ‘pellet’ and refers to the small chunks of fruit in the jelly. Want Want claims that Weiduoli contains at least 5% of fruit. However, the most innovative aspect of Weiduoli is that it comes in a soft bottle, so you can suck it in small sips, rather than swallowing an entire piece of fruit jelly.
Fruit flesh jelly
This is fruit jelly with a 20% – 25% fruit content. It is more like pieces of fruit held together by jelly. This as well invites to consume it by biting off small pieces and properly chew it. It also has more dietary fibre than the classic jellies, obviously. And if you are lucky, you may even hit some remaining traces of vitamins and minerals.
Yaogundong (Rock ‘n Roll Jelly)
Qinqin Food (Fujian) launched a new type of low calorie konjac fruit jelly in cooperation with Orihiro from Japan in July 2020. An interesting feature of the ad is that it does not use children, but a young adult male to promote these products. This could be a subtle attempt to reposition fruit jelly.
I’m sure that most readers love this variety even before trying it. This product is sold in a cup resembling that used to sell ice cream. The cup contains a few jellies in the traditional packing and a layer of fruit flavoured powder. According to an advertising video that is entertaining even for readers who cannot understand the Chinese, you can consume these jellies in three ways:
eat the jellies in the traditional way;
take them out, roll them through the powder and eat them;
Wet your finger, dip it in the powder and eat the powder;
This is a clever move. Children will be tempted to go for the second way, which will slow down their moves and diminish the risk of choking to a minimum. However, I wonder if this variety will survive. I will keep you posted.
With so much innovative energy from the competition, market leader Xizhilang is also introducing a floral type of fruit jelly to re-interest its patrons in their products. Perhaps this more elegant fancy look will make consumers less eager to suck the jelly up at once.
Chinese manufacturers of fruit jelly are also trying to revive the product by designing healthier types. They experiment with adding more fresh fruit and vegetable juice, adding tradtional Chinese medicinal (TCM) herbs, tea extracts, etc. Using healthier types of thickeners, like konjac or xanthan, is also part of this research.
China and the EU have signed an agreement on cooperation on, and protection of, geographical indications late 2020, including two products from Yantai: Yantai apple and Yantai wine.
Regional marketing: ‘Hospitable Shandong’
Shandong province is often referred to as China’s fruit and vegetable garden. Shandong was China’s top vegetable production region in 2019 with 11.65% of the national output. Yantai, a coastal city in Shandong, is committed to building a brand for itself as “China’s food city”. Geographically, Yantai is situated close to the Liaodong peninsula of Liaoning province, another important food production region, with a quick ferry service with Dalian, a major industrial and port city on that peninsula.
Watch this video to look at various aspects of Yantai through the eyes of foreign expats.
According to the mayor of Yantai, “We are working to boost the city’s food sector by promoting food diversity and security, aiming to develop the city into a heavyweight in both China and the overseas food market”.
The food sector has always been one of Yantai’s competitive industries. The China Food Industry Association recognised Yantai as a well-known Chinese food city in 2009.
Statistics from the local government show that in 2017 revenue generated from the city’s food industry hit RMB 194.87 billion, an increase of 11.9% from the previous year. This figure was 13.8% of the total industrial turnover of the region and 11.9% of the turnover of the provincial food industry. A recent survey comparing the GDP of major Chinese cities with that of nations in other parts of the world, revealed that the economy of Yantai is roughly comparable to that of Belarus.
There are more than 500 major enterprises doing business in the city’s food industry. These include Changyu Pioneer Wine Co., cooking oil producer Shandong Luhua Co., Shandong Longda Meat Foodstuff Co., and Shandong Oriental Ocean Sci-tech Co.; the company annually produces 1,500,000 mt of edible oil in 33 factories around the nation, benefiting more than 10 mln peanut farmers.
Yantai has a competitive edge in 16 food sectors including fruit and vegetables, oil, meat, aquatic products, rice noodles (fensi), cake, candy, instant foods, dairy products and condiments. The Yantai authorities have started awarding DOC status to local products. Longkou rice noodles obtained that status in September 2020.
A noteworthy product is the cherry. The cherries from Yantai are the best in China. The following illustration is a promotional picture indicating the nutrients in cherries.
The city has 27 nationally famous trademarks and 96 leading provincial trademarks in the food sector. Three brands – Changyu, Luhua and Longda – were named among China’s top 500 most valuable brands in 2014.
Food products made in Yantai are exported to more than 80 countries and regions including Russia, the United States and South Korea. According to the city’s plans, revenue generated from the food industry will reach RMB 300 billion by the end of 2017.
Yantai’s industrial sector generated more revenue and profits in the first half of 2017 than that of any other city in Shandong province, according to data from Yantai’s municipal commission of economy and information technology. The city’s total industrial revenues reached RMB 931 billion in the first half of 2017, leading to total profits of RMB 66 billion, the statistics state.
In 2021, Yantai was home to 44 A-share listed enterprises, ranking first in Shandong province in terms of total number.
Home of fruits
With its favorable climate conditions and geographical location, Yantai has become one of China’s most important fruit planting, processing and exporting bases”.
The city is known as China’s hometown of fruit. Fruits produced in Yantai, such as apples, cherries, pears and grapes, are known far and wide.
Yantai apples, which were given geographic indication status by the State Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine Administration in 2002, have become one of the things the city is renowned for. An important centre for apple growing is Qixia, a town Southeast of Yantai.
With a cultivating history of more than 140 years. The city has 186,660 hectares of apple orchards, which produce 5.6 mln mt of apples every year. About 600,000 mt of Yantai apples are sold in 82 countries and regions every year, including Southeast Asia, the European Union and the United States, according to official figures.
The city has more than 200 varieties of apples. The brand Yantai Apple has a value of RMB 10.59 billion, the leading amount in China’s fruit industry for seven consecutive years.
With a bright color and sweet taste, Yantai apples are exported to more than 60 countries and regions with an annual export volume of 600,000 mt, accounting for one-fourth of the country’s total apple exports.
Twenty-one tons of Yantai apples were shipped from Yantai to the United States again on Nov 9, 2015. It was the first time for Yantai apples to enter the US market. As a country with strict inspection and quarantine measures, the US had previously forbidden apple imports from China for 17 years.
“As the price in the US is twice the price in Asian countries, expanding to the US market will surely promote the apple industry in Yantai and increase locals’ income,” said Bai Guoqiang, head of Yantai Agriculture Bureau.
Cherries are another well-known fruit from Yantai, where cherry trees have grown for 130 years. More than 25,000 hectares of cherry trees produce about 190,000 mt of the fruit a year. The cherries are exported to more than 60 countries and regions, including South Korea, Germany and the US.
With such a variety of fruits, it is not a surprise that Yantai and the surrounding regions are a centre of fruit juice production in China. One of the country’s leading producers of apple juice concentrate, Andre, is located in Mouping, just East of Yantai.
North Andre Juice Co. Ltd. was established in 1996. The company’s products include: juice concentrate, pureed and preserved fruit, fruit essences, and pectin. Since its establishment, the company has invested more than 3 billion RMB and set up 9 modern juice concentrate production bases in Shandong, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Liaoning and Shanxi. Andre operates a total of 14 juice concentrate processing lines, 2 pectin production lines, 1 puree processing line and 1 dried fruit production line. The designed annual fruit processing products is more than 2 mln mt, and the annual juice concentrate production 340,000 mt, the annual pectin production 4000 mt and the annual puree production 10000 mt. In April 2003, Andre Juice Company went public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, becoming the first listed company in juice concentrate industry in China.
At almost the same latitude as Bordeaux in France, Yantai is also considered one of the world’s top seven coastal grape-growing areas. It was named the only “international grape and wine city” in Asia by the International Office of Vine and Wine in 1987.
The city now has more than 18,000 hectares of vineyards, 11,000 hectares of which provide grapes for winemaking. It is home to more than 20 international wine businesses and a large number of domestic vintners, including the brands Changyu, Great Wall (owned by the COFCO Group) and Dynasty. Chateau Lafite Rothschild selected Penglai, a county-level city of Yantai, to develop its first vineyard and chateau in China. Penglai established a sister relationship with Australia’s Barossa, one of the world’s finest wine producing regions, on March 25. Yantai has a similar relationship with Tauranga in New Zealand.
Changyu Wine Co. is China’s oldest and largest winery. The company was founded in 1892 by Zhang Bishi. The company’s name is formed from his surname Zhang (Chang) and the Chinese character meaning prosperity. In 2002, the company entered into cooperation with Castel group in France to establish the first professional chateau in China. In 2006, the company cooperated with a Canadian company to build the largest ice wine chateau in the world near Huanlong Lake of Liaoning province. It has also expanded overseas, building Chateau Changyu Kely in New Zealand. Changyu Pioneer Wine Company is now among the ten largest wine companies in the world, producing more than 900,000 hls of wine p.a.
Changyu is constructing a Wine City, with help from the Italian wine company Illva Saronno Holding Spa. It will include a European style chateau and a Wine Research Institute. The facility has been referred to as a Disney World for Wine in a Bloomberg report.
A more recent company is Domaine de Longdai, located in the Penglai region close to Yantai. The soil and climate of Qiushan valley are conducive to the cultivation of grapes and wine making. The French general manager praises Yantai for being supportive to the winery in production and commercial distribution. Combining the traditional Bordeaux brewing techniques with local grape planting, the winery brews wine with Yantai characteristics, relying on the unique natural conditions of Qiushan valley. The Domaine de Long Dai is the eighth winery of the Rothschild family in the world.
International food expo
To further boost its food industry, Yantai holds a series of international food trade fairs and trade fairs every year.
Fruit & Vegetable Food Fair
During the 16th Fruit, Vegetable and Food Fair held in the city last month, thousands of participants from more than 10 countries and regions including Japan, South Korea and Italy came to Yantai in search of business opportunities.
The four-day event attracted organizations and companies from home and abroad to display fruits, vegetables, seedlings, food processing equipment and agricultural machinery at nearly 900 booths.
Six overseas organizations and delegations including the Japan Consul General in Qingdao participated in the fair and brought their latest developments in fruit and vegetable production and related equipment manufacturing.
Some high-tech products at the expo were particularly interesting, including irrigation equipment from Israel, Italy’s agriculture testing machines, apple-planting technology from Japan and unmanned plant protection helicopters from Shandong.
Held in Yantai every year since 1999, the event has become one of China’s most influential expos in the fruit, vegetable and food industry. It provides a sound exchange and cooperation platform for Chinese and foreign companies in the sector.
The fair’s organizers said that the event has attracted more than 1.7 million delegates from across the world during the past 15 years. This year’s event alone attracted 58,000 visitors and the trade volume hit RMB 230 million.
East Asia International Food Trade Fair
The 12th East Asia International Food Trade Fair was held in Yantai June 2 – 5, 2017. resulted in the signing of cooperation agreements worth RMB 1.60 billion. With the theme of “Green, Innovation, Cooperation and Development” attracted more than 900 enterprises from home and abroad. They brought more than 13,000 food products covering 16 categories, from imported food to time-honored Chinese products. The fair was also regarded as lucrative by enterprises from other Chinese regions. More than 100 food enterprises from Sichuan brought their products to the fair, including local liquors, pigs, tea, pickles, condiments and snacks. Exhibitors from Jilin also made appearances as a group, presenting, among other products, ginseng, forest frog’s oviducts and pilose antler, known as the “three treasures in Northeast China”. Enterprises in Harbin offered Qing’an rice, time-honoured Harbin sausages and other specialties. Co-organised to the food fair, Yantai also hosted a trade fair for Jiangxi specialties and an expo of imported maternal and child products.
Scottish Chambers of Commerce opens trade office in Yantai
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce opened an international trade office in Yantai, a Chinese port city in Shandong province May 16, 2017. The formal opening ceremony was hosted by Zhang Bo, vice-mayor of the city, together with senior officials from Yantai municipal government. The Scottish delegation was led by SCC’s new president, Tim Allan, and chief executive Liz Cameron. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce identified robotics, bioscience, manufacturing, engineering and smart technologies, agriculture, food and drink and soccer management as being areas of key interest.
Dutch university opens branch in Yantai
The University of Groningen, The Netherlands, in collaboration with China Agricultural University, plans to establish a presence on a campus in the city of Yantai. In Yantai the university plans to offer Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD programmes that incorporate significant research activities and collaboration with the business sector. TheYantai campus is located in the middle of a high-tech zone covering 38 km². It is the home of many high-end industries, companies and research institutes, providing good opportunities for top sector jobs and cooperation in the area of research. In addition, as one of China’s greenest cities. Yantai is situated in the province of Shandong, whose 97 million inhabitants offer great potential in attracting future students. However, the Board of Groningen University ran into trouble early 2018, when a majority in the University Council voted against the project. The Board is now trying to reformulate the cooperation.
Bioscience Innovation Demonstration Zone
Yantai will see rapid development in its medical and health industry as authorities are mulling over building an international bioscience innovation demonstration zone. Based on the rapid development of its medical industry, the zone will consist of seven industrial parks including biomedicine industrial park, traditional Chinese medicine and precision healthcare industrial park, which will be built during the 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20) period, according to Li Wei, head of Yantai Food and Drug Administration.
By the end of 2020, the projected prime operating revenues of Yantai’s medical and health industry will exceed RMB 100 bln, achieving year-on-year growth of 15%. Yantai is home to many key national laboratories and boasts high innovation capabilities and potential.
Yantai will introduce supportive policies to encourage research and development, and attract and nurture leading enterprises and high-caliber talents in sectors such as medicine and medical equipment. Yantai has set up a special fund of RMB 200 mln to build platforms providing technological support. To boost the profile and competitiveness of Yantai’s medical industry, Yantai will host the first international conference on medical innovation and development from Sept 16 to 17, 2017.
Yantai specialties served at BRICS Summit
Three Yantai-based food brands made their way onto the dining tables of the 9th BRICS Summit, which was held in Xiamen, Fujian province on Sept 3-5, 2017. Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa were served up apples, condiments and Longkou fensi (a kind of vermicelli made from bean starch) from Yantai during the summit. Fruit supplier Yantai Lianlei Foods was given the green light to provide its apples for the summit in April. Lianlei apples first went on sale in Xiamen six years ago, and they have become hugely popular in the coastal city, their sales volume rising from just a few tons to more than 1000 mt. The company’s apples are also exported to Japan and several countries in Europe and America. Longkou fensi (see above) produced by Shuangta Foods was also selected as a designated food for the Xiamen summit by the China Food and Drug Administration. Shuangta is a world-leading producer of fensi, pea starch, and plant protein (the main raw material for plant-based meat), and it has a total value of RMB 4.3 billion. The company was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2010. Shinho Group also hit the headlines after becoming the official supplier of eight condiments including bean paste, soy sauce, vinegar and pepper to the summit.
Yantai, Stavanger sign ‘sister city’ intent
Yantai and the Norwegian port city of Stavanger are on their way to establishing official friendship ties. Zhang Dailing, vice mayor of Yantai extended a warm welcome to a Norwegian delegation headed by John Peter Hernes, vice mayor of Stavanger, on Oct 19, 2017. The purpose of the delegation is to strengthen cooperation on marine fishery and heavy industrial equipment between the two cities and sign a letter of intent to become sister cities. Other foreign sister cities of Yantai are: San Diego, Omaha (USA), Beppu, Miyako (Japan), Tauranga (New Zealand), Vladivostok (Russia), Gunsan, Wonju, Ulsan, Incheon, Ansan (South Korea), Phuket (Thailand), Angus (UK), Orebro (Sweden), Burgas (Bulgaria), Campel, Ange (France), Szombathely, Miskolc (Hungary), MacKay, Iscah, Wendendy (Australia), Enalesburg (Spain), Lahore (Pakistan).