A special promotion on popular internet shopping site JingDong (jd.com) is encouraging shoppers to “treat special women” by spending RMB64 ($9.48) on an elaborately wrapped package of six beef snacks on 8 March.
In a dramatic upmarket shift for Chinese convenience meat products, Sentai has processed and packaged six different favourites from Chinese cuisine as beef snacks and printed enticing images of each culinary speciality on the packaging.
Dried, flavoured meat products are extremely popular at the lower end of China’s meat sales and are a common sight in convenience stores and a favourite travel snack sold in bus and train stations nationwide.
Product tailored to city consumers
Sentai, which claims a slaughtering capacity of 30,000 cattle per year, has focused its distribution on the e-commerce portal Jingdong where it sells 35g packs of beef for prices varying from RMB11.68 ($1.84) to RMB14.24 ($2.19). This is a premium on other dried meat snacks – jerky sells for as little as RMB5 ($0.77) per 40g pack in 7-11 and WuMart convenience stores in downtown Beijing.
Established in 2003, Sentai obtained a licence in 2011 to export meat and cites Hong Kong and the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan as its top markets. A phone call from GlobalMeatNews to the Sentai headquarters was directed to a sales officer, who explained how the firm had engaged outside branding consultants to ensure the product range “suits the younger city consumers”.
The packaging of the Sentai products lists the producer as Hong Kong Xin Shi Jiang Food Products Group Co, but the phone numbers and other contact details on the packaging link back to Sentai’s headquarters in Gansu. It was not possible to contact the Hong Kong Xin Shi Jiang firm.
Misuse of ‘green food’ label
While Sentai would appear to come from a backwater in north-western China, it’s also the case that Gansu, with a large Muslim population, has spawned numerous meat processors catering to the domestic and international halal trade. Yet while it claims the oft-used “green food” in its marketing material, the Sentai products are not certified as organic.
Sentai is not the only firm attempting a make-over of its packaging in order to connect with China’s savvy online shoppers. Leading beef processor K Inner Mongolia Kerchin Cattle Industry Co has recently re-designed packaging on its beef jerky series and rolled the range out on top e-commerce portals Tmall and Jd.com. Much better-known than smaller rivals, Kerchin sells 400g packs in new youth-themed packaging, with eye-catching colours and artwork, for RMB99 ($15.21) per pack. The series was launched in January.
Another newcomer chasing China’s online shoppers is Bai Cao Wei, a firm based in the wealthy east coast city of Hangzhou which sells 100g packaged and “herb flavoured” dried beef cubes on leading online shopping sites, as well as supermarkets in Shanghai. “Our company uses walnuts and pomegranates from Xinjiang [in the far western region of China] as well as acorns from Australia to create unique flavours in the beef,” explains a company advert.
Online commerce has opened up possibilities for smaller firms like Sentai and Bai Cao Wei, which can now reach consumers from a central dispatch operation without expensive logistics required to list in supermarkets across China’s vast geography.