The Chinese sense of strawberries – candy among fruits

On this Valentine Day, it is appropriate to post something about what probably is one of the most romantic fruits: the strawberry. It’s hard to imagine why the apple is the “forbidden fruit” of lore, when the voluptuous and fragile strawberry is so much more tempting. Strawberries are temptingly red and sweet. The are an all time favourite flavour for ice cream, candy, cake, pie and other sweet treats.

According to analysts’ estimates, China has produced more than 4 mln mt of fresh strawberries in 2017. Moreover, higher production of fresh strawberries will back further development of the strawberry processing sector in the country. It is estimated that China’s frozen strawberry production will increase by 15% year-on-year to 150,000 mt.

The 7th International Strawberry Symposium was held in Beijing in 2012. The following video gives an impression.

As regards exports, China’s fresh strawberry exports are insignificant due to high shipping costs. The following table shows the Chinese exports of frozen strawberries during the past few years

Year exports (mt)
2014 73,854
2013 97,254
2012 135,560
2011 129,613
2010 112,390

These figures show a high fluctuation, as can be expected of a product relying on parameters that are hard to predict (market, climate, policies, etc.).

The same figures for imported frozen strawberries seem less volatile.

Year imports (mt)
2014 7,131
2013 8,076
2012 7,429
2011 5,511
2010 8,276

There seems to be no clear proportion between imports and exports.

The following video is less slick than the one shown above, but gives a direct insight in a Chinese diced strawberry plant.

Strawberry as ingredient

Strawberries are rarely used by the food and beverage industry as whole fruits. They are usually processed into powder, jam, pulp, etc. While such products are mainly supplied to industrial clients, Youlian Food (Longhai, Fujian) also markets its freeze dried strawberry powder in 50 gr packages to consumers that like to bake strawberry flavoured cakes.

Youlian

The Food Ingredients China (FIC) trade fair, March 23 – 25, 2016, included 6 exhibitors with strawberry-derived ingredients.

Ingredient number
Juice 3
Powder 2
Frozen 1

I have shown an example of a strawberry flavoured milk beverage in an earlier post. In this post, I will list a few other examples of strawberry flavoured foods and drinks. Also see the vinegar strawberries in my post on vinegar-based foods and beverages.

 

Meijing brand Strawberry sugar free candy

CandyTuoyuan

Meijing Food Co., Ltd., Shanghai

Ingredients:

strawberry powder, additives (liquid maltitol, citric acid, food flavour, acesulfame-K, ponceau 4R colour).

Although strawberry powder is used, both colour and flavour require enhancement with additives.

 

Laobute Strawberry Flaky Pastry

Laobute

Quanjia Food Co., Ltd., Beijing

Ingredients:

Crust: wheat flour, butter, food additives(maltitol, xylitol(2%)), eggs, skimmed milk powder.

Filling: wax gourd, additives (maltitol), strawberry pulp, veg oil, water.

The interesting aspect of this recipe is that wax gourd (donggua) is used to create a fruity mouth feel, which is apparently not accomplished by the strawberry pulp by itself.

 

Mengniu Strawberry Milk

MengniuStrMilk

Mengniu Dairy, Huhhot, Inner Mongolia

Ingredients:

water, fresh milk, coconut milk, crystal sugar, HFCS, strawberry cubes, food additives (CMC, citric acid, lactic acid, sodium citrate, aspartame, sodium cyclamate), food flavour

This is a good example of a Chinese formulated dairy drink in which milk is but one of the many ingredients. The brand name Zhen Guoli translates as ‘Real Strawberry Cubes’. That may be true, but it is a far cry from real milk.

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.

 

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What on earth is . . . furu?

Furu is a fermented soybean product. It is a cheese-like product with a spreadable creamy consistency and a very distinct flavour.

Furu is a popular seasoning for breakfast rice or steamed bread (mantou). It has a long history and written records date back to the 3rd century.

Furu is made by fungal solid state fermentation of tofu (soybean curd) followed by aging in brine containing salt and alcohol.

The production process consists of two fermentation steps. Square blocks of regular white bean curd (4.3 x 4.3 x 1.5 cm) are rubbed with Mucor fungus and soybean meal, placed on wooden boards, and fermented for 2 – 3 days in a room with a temperature of 35 – 40 ºC, during which they are regularly turned around. Then they are placed in jar with brine and soaked for 7 days.

Finally, the beancurd cubes are placed in a jar with a mixture of red koji powder, fermented paste, pickled daylily, distilled liquor (baijiu), spices, some rice wine and water. The jars are sealed with paper and fermented for 3 months at 30 ºC.

The following video introduces the industrial production of furu. It is in Chinese without English subtitles, but I think it is informative enough for food technologists.

Typology

Several types of furu can be distinguished, according to processing method or according to colour and flavour.

Choice of processing can result in mould fermented furu, naturally fermented furu, bacterial fermented furu, or enzymatically ripened furu. Fungal starters include Actinomucor spp., Mucor spp. and Rhizopus spp.

Image

Top furu brands

Image

Wangzhihe is the oldest existing brand, founded in 1669.

Innovation

Wangzhihe (founded in 1669) is also actively developing its formulation. A newly launched version is Xylitol Furu.

FuruXylitol

The ingredients as listed on the label:

Water, soybeans, alcohol, salt, wheat flour, additives(xylitol, red koji, magnesium chlorate, citric acid), spices.

Let’s have a look at the nutrition information (100 gr) of the xylitol furu and the regular version, both by Wangzhihe.

Item xylitol regular unit
Energy 136.20 153.00 kcal
Carbohydrates 3.00 0.60 gr
Fat 10.00 11.60 gr
Protein 9.00 9.00 gr

So some of the fat has been replaced by carbohydrates, and additives are used to restore the texture, colour and other organoleptic properties of the ‘real thing’.

Wangzhihe has also launched a ‘low salt furu’.

Wang Jiahuai, General Manager of the Wangzhihe Group, stated in an interview in April 2015, “It takes at least 100 days to ferment furu while natto (Japanese soy food) ferments in about one week. There is a wide gap in texture, fermentation and nutrition between Chinese furu and the Japanese natto.”

The furu range of Lanting Food (Shaoxing) includes a ‘ham furu’. The ingredients include Shaoxing rice wine and Jinhua ham, two local specialties of Zhejiang province. This product fits in with a popular trend in food innovation in China that tries to cash in on famous local products.

HamFuru

Academic cooperation

One route to innovation is a strategic alliance between a manufacturer and a university. Chunming Seasoning (Qingdao, Shandong) has established a Qingdao Chunming Seasoning Research & Development Centre in cooperation with the Food & Beverage Research Institute of Qingdao University. Apart from developing new and better products, this project is also a good breeding ground for new engineers for the company.

National cultural heritage

Wangzhihe’s furu got national recognition as a cultural heritage item, in June, 2008. The company gives all its suppliers an evaluation and certification before allowing them to supply. They are mostly located in the northeastern provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang, which have high-quality soya beans.

Eurasia Consult’s database of the Chinese food industry includes 55 producers of furu.

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.