Pineapple mania: Taiwanese food firms go into product innovation hyperdrive in response to China ban

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Taiwanese food firms have stepped up their food innovation efforts to utilise the local pineapple supply after China instituted a ban on Taiwanese imports. ©Getty Images
Taiwanese food firms have stepped up their food innovation efforts to utilise the local pineapple supply after China instituted a ban on Taiwanese imports. ©Getty Images

Related tags Pineapple Taiwan China Innovation

Taiwanese food firms have stepped up their food innovation efforts to utilise the local pineapple supply after China instituted a ban on Taiwanese imports, developing beers, sandwiches, appetisers and more from the fruit.

Small packaged pineapple cakes (Fengli su) have always been one of Taiwan’s most popular souvenir snacks, and many local shops are dedicated to the manufacturing and sales of these – but since China announced its ban on Taiwanese pineapple imports starting March 2021, many of these stores have stepped out of their comfort zones to launch new pineapple-based innovations.

Even well-known pineapple cake stores such as Wangli Pineapple Town in Changhua county have moved to innovate beyond traditional pineapple cakes, creating items such as pineapple nougats, pineapple toast, pineapple sandwiches, pineapple walnut pastries and pineapple ‘giant biscuits’.

“Pineapple nougats contain golden pineapple flesh and thick, creamy milk, and the pure freshness of milk can be complemented by the sweet-sour notes of pineapple,”​ said the firm via its website.

“Pineapples are a good thing, which can be used in various processed foods, beverages, snacks and more, even in dishes such as pineapple bitter gourd chicken, pineapple prawn balls, pineapple fried rice and more, [so do] eat as much Taiwanese pineapple as you can.”

Another such store was the New Taiwan Bakery, which developed a pineapple pound cake innovated from its original orange pound cake, and the Pineapple Hill bakery with pineapple vinegar and pineapple wine.

Firms have not responded to FoodNavigator-Asia’s ​requests for comments, likely due to potential political implications.

That said, other food stores not known for any association with pineapple have also joined in the innovation crusade – At a pineapple-support event by the Chiayi City Cultural Promotion Association, the famous Spraying Water Chicken Rice Restaurant (Pen shui ji rou fan) pushed out an unconventional dessert made from pineapple, mushroom and pig skin, whereas the Smart Fish Restaurant (best known for its claypot fish head) launched a pineapple pastry with fish floss.

Sweet potato snack firm Shuzhiren, which is better-known for its savoury flavours, created a pineapple-flavoured version of its famous sweet potato crisps, which it has decided to adopt as a fixed flavour in its stores moving forward.

“There are so many ways to use pineapple from cooking to beverages to sauces to desserts and more – [so] great risks can sometimes turn out to be great opportunity,”​ said Chiayi City Cultural Promotion Association Chairman Liu Qingzong.

“Ever since China’s announcement of a ban on Taiwanese pineapples due to biosecurity reasons, regardless of the reason for this, Taiwan has shown unity against this, particularly in Chiayi which has utilised immense creativity to innovate various food products with pineapple as a base – this will support new business opportunities for the industry moving forward.”

The government-run Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation has also announced that it intended to purchase ‘large amounts of Taiwanese pineapples’​ so as to process these into pineapple wines, beers, juices, liqueurs and many more.

Ban not universally accepted

China implemented the ban on Taiwanese pineapples starting March 1 2021 citing biosecurity reasons linked to pests being found in the fruits, a claim which Taiwan has refuted and many believe to be fueled by political reasons instead.

Taiwanese Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Meihua told CNBC​ via a televised interview that this is believed to ‘not be in compliance with international trade rules’​ and that Taiwan would try to diversify its export locations moving forward. Previously, 90% of all Taiwanese pineapple exports went to China.

Many countries are rallying to support Taiwan in its plight, such as Japan - Taiwanese Agriculture Minister Chen Chichung said in a radio interview that Japan has ordered a record 6,200 tons of Taiwanese pineapples, and netizen posts on the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Facebook page have shown these being emptied off shelves in Japanese supermarkets despite being significantly more expensive (JPY599 / US$5.52) than its Philippines counterparts (JPY299 / US$2.75).

Multiple embassies in Taiwan from Canada, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States all called for more Taiwanese pineapple purchases and suggested more ways to consume it, such as pineapple upside-down cake.

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