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An eclipse of the mooncake

By Xu Junqian | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-19 09:48


 An eclipse of the mooncake

A saleswoman helps a customer choose mooncakes at a supermarket in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. Xinhua

The marketing manager at the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai Pudong told China Business News that mooncake orders from pharmaceutical companies are almost zero, likely a result of a recent anti-corruption investigation initiated by the government. Other five-star hotels confirmed that orders from State-owned companies and the government have dropped by at least 50 percent this year, even though the hotels are offering up to 40 percent discounts.

A manager named Su at a food-processing factory in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, said that his hotel clients have cut about 30 percent of mooncake orders this year, mainly because of the policy. Most Chinese five-star hotels outsource their mooncake baking.

Other popular alternatives among festival gifts are also having a tough time.

Yang Weilong, director of the Crab Association of Yangcheng Lake in Jiangsu province, said the crab season has just started but sales are likely to take a heavy hit from the anti-corruption policy.

An eclipse of the mooncake

Yang predicted that local dealers sales will fall by 30 percent year-on-year, and he said that sellers would be unlikely to recoup the 10 percent inflation in costs of producing the "divine lake food" this year because of the bleak market.

Sales of Moutai, the Chinese liquor, have plunged since the beginning of this year, also because of the campaign against lavish spending. Kweichow Moutai Co Ltd, China's top liquor producer, reported "close-to-flat" revenue growth in the first half of the year, the lowest since it was listed in 2001.

Budget pastry revival

But that doesn't mean people have stopped eating mooncakes this year. On the contrary, inexpensive types, the most traditional kinds, are seeing a revival in the market.

In Shanghai's bustling Huaihai Road, several food stores and restaurants that sell meat-stuffed mooncakes for 3 yuan apiece have long lines of customers all day. Crunchy cakes with juicy fillings similar to the local specialty, xiaolongbao, are selling like hotcakes to office workers in the area who spend up to two hours in line to buy them.

Cai Hongjie, general manager of Wangjiasha, a traditional eatery in Shanghai, said they have been selling more than 8,000 of meat-filled mooncakes a day in recent weeks, and the peak is yet to come.

Ice cream mooncakes from foreign companies such as Haagen-Dazs are becoming popular among young people.

Shi, the scalper, said that seven of every 10 vouchers he has resold this year are from Haagen-Dazs or other ice-cream mooncake producers, "because that's something people are actually willing to pay for".

Xu Zhen, a salesman at the website vip.fescoadecco, which helps companies pick gifts for their staff, said mooncake vouchers from ice cream sellers such as Cold Stone and Dairy Queen are the most popular among human resources people.

"Mooncakes, essentially, are food," said Gu Xiaoming, a sociologist from Shanghai Fudan University. "In ancient times, they were filled with meaning as a symbol of the harvest moon and family gatherings. Now, as they gradually lose their function as gifts, they may again start to be appreciated for their gastronomic beauty."

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