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Smaller and healthier traditional festival treats growing in popularity
2020-10-01 
An employee with a food processing company in Anqing, Anhui province, holds mooncakes rolling off from the production line. [Photo by Jiang Sheng/For China Daily]

Mooncakes, a Chinese cake traditionally eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival, and other items related to the festival are getting smaller and healthier, and feature more traditional cultural elements.

"The mooncake in an individual package is small and pretty," said Christina Li, who had gone downstairs from her office building in Beijing's central business district to shop at a nearby convenience store for a mooncake and a cup of hot latte.

"It has fewer calories to start a working day," said Li, a marketing executive for an online travel platform.

According to Bianlifeng, a Beijing-based, data-powered convenience store chain, the smaller mooncakes in pretty packaging have quickly gained popularity among consumers.

"Wrapped one-by-one suits not only individual customers, but also fits the ready-to-eat consumption habits popular among busy professionals," said Xue Enyuan, Bianlifeng's executive director.

Females account for 60 percent of the consumers who buy mooncakes at Bianlifeng, which has prompted the manufacturers of the mooncakes to make the snacks about half their traditional size. Mooncakes lighter than 80 grams account for 67 percent of the chain's sales.

"The smallest size is only 60 grams," said Xue. "For female consumers, smaller mooncakes offer satisfaction but also reduce food waste."

Mooncake sales at convenience stores increased as the festival approached.

"Many people are expected to spend the festival outside of their hometown. Getting a mooncake from a nearby convenience store is a way to resolve homesickness," said Xue.

Starbucks China rolled out three mooncake gift packages with the theme "Full moon, full circle", which feature seven flavors in a mix of Chinese and Western styles and a silk scarf that is recyclable. The company said reunions have become even more precious this year.

Retailers have also found that imported products are selling well for festival occasions, with imported products that feature health elements being the favorite among urban consumers.

Walmart China said it has added more than 500 kinds of imported products since the beginning of the year, including seafood from Mexico and honey from New Zealand.

However, Li Chen, deputy director for food and beverage at research firm Mintel, said consumption in the gifting sector was unlikely to recover to last year's level-due to lingering impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which continues to hamper visiting and gatherings among family and friends, particularly among those who do not live in the same city or region.

Brands should see more opportunities brought by guochao, the trend of a growing interest among young people in local brands and culture.

Li added that gifting previously was more about the occasion or the gesture, whereas nowadays younger consumers are paying more attention to traditional culture and customs when buying gifts.

Xiao Guan Tea, a Beijing-based, high-end tea producer, has created a new classic-blue package that symbolizes the Chinese poem The Bright Moon Shines Over the Sea and features five kinds of tea products and a book of traditional Chinese poetry.

Zhang Ze, who oversees public relations at Xiao Guan Tea, said the post-pandemic era has brought health and lifestyle to the forefront among people who want to express their greetings, gratitude and appreciation for family and friends.

"Tea as a traditional Chinese healthy drink has become a top option in selecting gifts, spurring tea consumption in recent months," said Zhang.

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