The upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival (more commonly known as the Moon or Mooncake Festival) is scheduled for September 8 this year. The festival is held each year on a full moon – either in September or early October – to celebrate the harvest and is recognized as a public holiday in China, Vietnam and Taiwan.
John Fang, business analyst for China Market Research (CMR) Group, said it was an important traditional festival for family reunion in China.
The tradition of eating and gifting mooncakes made it an equally important event for manufacturers, he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“It is definitely the biggest calendar event for cake manufacturers in the year,” he said.
Starbucks gaining ground with novel flavors
While the festival was dominated by large domestic players like XingHuaLou, Ganso, Mei-xin and Daoxiangcun, international companies had gained some ground, he said.
“International players such as Starbucks and Haagen-Dazs are also getting into the mooncake market recently. For example, Starbucks is rolling out its mooncake gift packages using novel paste such as cranberry and mocha to cater to the diversified tasting needs of Chinese consumers.”
While traditional flavors like red bean paste, lotus paste and five kernel [five types of nuts and seeds] remained best-selling varieties, the market had seen a raft of novel flavor development, he said.
“Flavors such as blueberry and ice cream paste are also becoming more popular among young consumers,” Fang said.
In addition, consumers had started to purchase low-sugar and low-fat mooncakes amid nutrition and health concerns, he added.
High-value cakes lose importance
What had declined, Fang said, was the importance around high-value, expensive mooncakes.
Traditionally, mooncakes were consumed among family or gifted, but the gifting side was now exercised with caution, he said, particularly among businessmen and officials.
“As mooncakes have long been used as business gifts and even associated with bribes, the demand for high-end mooncakes has been shrunk, mostly since the Anti-Corruption Campaign started at the end of 2012.”
Mooncakes for over 1,000 RMB ($162.49) were now very difficult to sell, for example. “Consumers are shifting to buying moon cakes with high value for money for family use,” he said.