Mooncakes on sale at a shopping mall in Singapore on September 12 (Photo: Li Xuanmin/GT)
Big orders from overseas a bonus for domestic firms
Sales of mooncakes, a traditional dessert for the Mid-Autumn Festival, are expected to see a new record high this year, boosted by the upcoming week-long National Day holidays and surging overseas demand, especially from countries along the route of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, domestic businessmen told the Global Times.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching, and large quantities of mooncakes are being displayed at supermarkets along with various promotions ahead of the traditional festival, which falls on October 4.
At a Walmart store in Chaoyang district, Beijing, the Global Times noticed that consumers were buying bulk packs of mooncakes in an area the supermarket designated for festival promotion on Monday night. Slogans such as "Buy One Get One Free" and "85 percent discount for two boxes" were also put up to attract customers.
A 50-something consumer surnamed Li, who was buying mooncakes with sweetened bean paste and egg yolks, said that she was selecting "more mooncakes this year, because my family will consume more [compared with last year] due to the fact that the Mid-Autumn Festival coincides with the National Day holidays."
Zhang Xinyou, manager of Guanyuan Food Co in Foshan, South China's Guangdong Province, which specializes in producing Cantonese-style mooncakes, told the Global Times on Tuesday that his company's sales in the domestic market have soared by 15 percent to 20 percent this year.
"Orders [for mooncakes] are flooding in, and we can't keep up with demand," Zhang said, also attributing the sales increase to the upcoming "double festivals."
Thanks to the festivals, mooncake sales are expected to shoot up by 5 to 10 percent year-on-year in 2017, a spokesperson for Walmart surnamed Li told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Li also noted that mooncakes are still affordable for most people. For example, a box of four mooncakes with lotus seeds costs just 9.9 yuan (.5) at Walmart, she said.
But the low prices are a concern for producers like Zhang, who have been struggling with rising prices of mooncakes' raw materials.
"The prices of ingredients such as lotus seeds and sugar have soared by 5 percent to 8 percent, but the retail prices of mooncakes have remained basically the same as last year or have just risen a little bit," Zhang said, pointing to the shrinking profit margins in the market.
One area of good news for domestic mooncake manufacturers is the fact that overseas orders are on the rise, providing a boost for their revenues.
"In addition to traditional markets in Southeast Asia, this year we saw a significant increase in orders from countries and regions along the route of the B&R initiative like Myanmar, and we are also exploring new markets in countries such as New Zealand," Zhang said, estimating that the company's mooncake exports will grow by 20 percent on a yearly basis in 2017.
Compared with the domestic market, the sales season in foreign markets is much longer - starting in June and ending in October - further lifting export volumes, Zhang said.
A manager surnamed Guo at Guangzhou-based Le Feng Food Co told the Global Times that his company has exported mooncakes to the UK, the Netherlands, the US, Australia and Hong Kong this year.
"In 2016, we started to export around five tons of mooncakes to the US, and this year the orders increased to 10 tons. And for the first time, we also exported 6.93 tons of mooncakes to Australia, which had a value of ,100," Guo said.
Most of the exported mooncakes are bought by Chinese people living in these other countries, Guo said, adding that "some foreigners may be curious and have a taste."
In terms of the types of mooncakes being exported, Zhang said that consumer tastes in foreign markets are evolving. "They are now showing interest in specialized mooncakes such as crisp skin cakes and ice skin mooncakes."
The rising export trend also shows that domestically produced foods are garnering wider recognition in international markets for their good quality and flavor, industry insiders said.