Mid Autumn Goody Box – fancier food for a traditional festival

Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) is a harvest festival, celebrated in China and other East Asian countries. Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival in China after Chinese New Year. To the Chinese, the festival means family reunion and harmony. It is celebrated when the moon is full, and Chinese people believe a full moon is a symbol of reunion, harmony, and happiness. It’s always in September or October, on month 8 day 15 of the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2019, it will fall on September 13.

I have introduced that festival in my post on moon cakes, the typical food eaten on that festival. I have tried to keep you abreast with the latest trends on that post. I will continue to do so, but I recently received a note from a Chinese friend who had been given a Mid Autumn Gift Box, containing exquisite moon cakes, but also a few other luxury versions of Chinese local delicacies, not necessarily consumed during the Mid Autumn Festival.

Trends

This box represents a number of current trends and describing the contents of this box therefore gives a good insight in those trends; so good, that I prefer to do so in a post, rather than add it to the Trends page of my blog. The two trends are:

  • Goody boxes; goody boxes containing samples of part or all of the product range of a manufacturer has become a vogue in China this year. One of earliest of such presentations was a box of single portions of nuts and seeds by Three Squirrels. Such boxes suit Chinese communitarian culture: you can share the box with your family, colleagues or friends.
  • Local specialties; regional governments have become more aware of the value of local delicacies and have started actively developing their production to comply with the expectations of the modern Chinese consumer. Look, e.g., to my post on Jinhua Ham for a successful example. You can consult my post on local cuisines to find the locations mentioned here.

The box

So, now have a look at the overview picture, showing the fancy top of the box and its contents.

It includes a 3, because the manufacturer is supplying three grades. I am describing the top grade in this post. This is what was in the box my friend was presented.

Honey glazed walnut kernels from a mountainous region of Yunnan province

Dried apricots from Xinjiang in China’s far West.

Red can sugar candy from Lincang, Yunnan; it makes a sweet drink by solving it in hot water.

Spicy dried beef from Hunan province.

And, last but not least, fancy mooncakes.

  • Two milk tea moon cakes;
  • Two macha cassia moon cakes;
  • Two red tea moon cakes.

Chinese have been eating walnuts, dried apricots or beef jerky as a snack for ages, but in this day and age, you need to get your walnuts from the high mountains of Yunnan or from an outpost of the ancient Silk Road to arouse the interest of present-day Chinese consumers. And, you have to wrap everything in packs and boxes matching the high quality of the foods. It makes you wonder what the next step will be.

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.

Traditional Chinese snack food

Earlier in this blog I posted an item about leisure food, a typical food group in Chinese food industry statistics. This is a very broad range of foods that Chinese eat while on holiday, sitting in their favourite chair in front of the TV, in the stadium watching their team play, and virtually all other occasions that they are not eating a proper meal.

The Chinese do have their own traditional snacks, which is a subset of the leisure foods. In the light of the over general nationalist trend in China after President Xi and his new crew rose to power, Chinese are also getting more aware of ‘their own’ traditional snacks.

However, the same applies to those snack foods as I reported earlier about a food like instant noodles, or steamed bread (mantou): they need to be packed in pocket-sized easy to carry and ready to eat portions, while preserving the original texture, taste and flavour.

That is a major challenge for the Chinese food R&D community, but it is worth the effort. The production of traditional Chinese snack food has increased from approximately 1.93 million mt in 2004 to almost 3.88 million mt in 2014. The market value rose from RMB 54.008 billion to RMB 387.532 billion.

In the remainder of this post, I will list the categories of traditional Chinese snack food as usual distinguished in Chinese statistics.

Nuts, seeds and other roasted goods

Nuts do not need further explanation. Roasted goods (chaohuo) are melon seeds, pine seeds, peanuts, and other plant seeds that are roasted to increase flavour and digestibility. The value of this market segment rose from RMB 18.592 in 2004 to RMB 86.393 billion in 2014.

NutsSeeds

China has produced a total of 4,506,500 mt of seeds in 2018; broken down in the following table.

Type volume
Sunflower seeds 3,250,000
White melon seeds 711,500
Sweet melon seeds 545,000

An interesting company to watch in this business is Three Squirrels (Sanzhisongshu). Three Squirrels is the pin-up kid in China’s snacking segment. Launching in 2012, it took just 65 days to become the top nut seller on Tmall and today it’s China’s best-selling food brand online. The company’s turnover has grown from RMB 924.473 mln in 2014, RMB and 2.043 bln in 2015 to RMB 4.42 bln in 2016. Most of this success is due to its online sales and its vast network of region distribution centres. It has achieved this all while charging a premium above most of its competitors.

Three Squirrels plays to Chinese consumers’ love of cute furry animals by cleverly incorporating its cartoon mascots into everything it does, from branding to customer service. Images and videos of the squirrels attract engagement rates far beyond most of its competitors online. It has created an army of advocates who earn social credit filling their WeChat feeds with images of their mascots, selfies with their products and even positive experiences with customer care. Three Squirrels also transforms consumption into an experience providing nutcrackers and a suite of other add-ons.

       

The latest stunt by Three Squirrels is linking up with Monlot, a Bordeau-based vinyard acquired by the Chinese movie star Vicky Zhao. Check out this picture of Monlot Three Squirrels. It is an interesting ruse to embed a Chinese-owned foreign vinyard in the local food industry.

Some nuts are assigned medicinal qualities in traditional Chinese medicine. An example is the wild almond (Semen Armeniacae Vulgaris; ‘shanxingren (mountain almond)’ in Chinese). They are said to have antipyretic functions and help bowel movements. A noted producer of wild almonds is Fangxu Food (Beijing).

A recent trend in the Chinese nut market is small packagings. more “one day pack” nuts have appeared in the market since 2016, and accounted for 25% of the market size in 2018. First tier and second tier cities made up nearly 45% of the entire “one day pack” nuts consumer market of 2018. and consumers born between 1990 and 1995 formed the bulk of the consumers.

Preserved fruits

I already dedicated a post one of them: huamei. Preserved fruits fall under foods that have been invented in times that there was no cooled storage or other way to preserve fruits. They have become part of the local diet particularly in North China, with its cold winters. The northern preserved fruits are drier; those in south stickier. The value of this market segment rose from RMB 17.014 billion in 2004 to RMB 105.066 billion in 2014.

PresFruits

Dried and preserved meat

The top product in this group is beef jerky, although shredded pork (rousong) could be almost as big. The latest invention in this range is a series of duck products (tongues, feed, necks, gizzards, hearts) that I introduced in my post on Peking Duck. The value of this market segment rose from RMB 7.763 billion in 2004 to RMB 45.289 billion in 2014.

DriedMeat

Bean products

Chinese love to chew on all kinds of dried and roasted beans, so it has become a separate category of snack foods. The most famous are the fennel flavoured beans (huixiangdou) that have been eternalised by Lu Xun’s short story Kong Yiji. They are small green soy beans toasted with cinnamon, fennel and other spices. On the basis of huixiangdou, a Shanghai shopkeeper invented a new variety called wuxiangdou ‘five spice beans’. They are broad beans with a firmer texture, a white skin, and white pulp. They are roasted with five ingredients: fennel, citrus, cinnamon, sugar and essence, to reach a unique mix of flavours. The value of this market segment rose from RMB 5.890 billion in 2004 to RMB 46.204 billion in 2014.

ProcBeans

Other

The bulk of the remaining traditional snacks are dried or wet pickled or preserved vegetables. The typical way to preserve vegetables is by fermentation. An example, zhacai, has been introduced in an earlier post.

DriedVegFrt

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.