Here’s What Mooncakes Tell Us About Millennial Trends in China This Year

    Twenty-something fans of the Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes might be hard pressed to find more traditional flavors as hotel chefs and brand marketers go for the wow factor.
    Photo: Becky Li's WeChat account
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Lifestyle

    Less than a decade ago, China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a traditional Chinese festival that starts from September 24 this year, gained so much in popularity that its unique celebratory treat—the mooncake—began to transform from a humble snack into a high-priced delicacy. Now, confectioners are re-imagining the gourmet dessert with all kinds of creative twists in an attempt to lure luxury-loving millennials to these tasty temptations. And while baking ingredients and techniques matter more than ever, Jing Daily assessed the marketing of China’s newest high-end mooncake offerings to see what exactly is wooing China’s young consumers—even if it only matters once a year.

    Typical mooncakes can cost about 10-30 for four, but more impressive varieties can cost as much as 80 at The Peninsula Hotel. Meanwhile, Starbucks, which has been popular during the holiday for over a decade, sells its mooncakes in packages of six for 50.

    Homegrown luxury#

    There’s no question that Chinese fashion designers are making waves around the world this year, with big names making collaborative appearances with Tmall at New York Fashion Week and with the luxury e-commerce website at London Fashion Week. In China, local designers are using mooncake boxes as incentives for VIP customers. For example, Ban Xiaoxue applied his design talents to the holiday by creating a whimsically illustrated box of “Art Mooncakes” filled with egg yolk, matcha, cranberry, and purple potato. Those who spent more than 846.00 (5,800 RMB) at one of his boutiques in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen could receive one of the limited edition mooncake boxes (while supplies last, of course).

    KOLs are key#

    KOLs—or Key Opinion Leaders—specialize in more than just fashion or travel. Becky Li, the fashionista behind the hit blog Becky’s Fantasy, wrote a post this month about the time she posted online about giving her friends boxes of Peninsula Hotel mooncakes as gifts—and how it set off a social media frenzy. After realizing how many of her followers wanted to know where to get their own mooncakes, she decided to cooperate with the Peninsula on a campaign for their popular treats. Her followers responded by buying up thousands of mooncakes, with some buying up to 10 boxes at a time, she wrote. She has continued to collaborate this year while giving her followers exclusive perks when they buy mooncakes and other delicacies at the hotel.

    Li’s WeChat post also represents luxury brands that have gifted her mooncake boxes, including Tiffany and Giorgio Armani. Celebrity KOL Gogoboi has also posted mooncake gifts from luxury brands on his social media, but he took a slightly different route this year. Instead of simply writing about the beautiful packages, he decided to host a mooncake tasting event for a few lucky followers this week.

    Aesthetics matter#

    If luxury marketers needed any more proof that catering to China’s design-savvy, social-media-loving, post-90s generation is key, then they need only study the lineage of mooncake packaging and presentation over the last few years. And 2018’s mooncake designs are more selfie-worthy than ever. For example, Shangri-La’s mid-market, millennial-focused Hotel Jen in Beijing just offered up eight different mooncake collections in colorful and contemporary boxes.

    Flowers have power#

    China’s floral industry is booming thanks to both luxury marketers and lifestyle-conscious millennials. And while gifting bouquets of flowers for special occasions has become increasingly common, FlowerPlus, a flower subscription app, is also offering customers something else along with their Mid-Autumn themed bouquets, that come with floral teas by CHALI, a vase, and gift cards… mooncakes. July’s Flower, based in Shanghai, is offering a box of four mooncakes and mixing up the flavors to please every generation, with fillings that include avocado, red bean, and red wine. The luxury flower delivery company Roseonly has teamed up with Greybox Coffee to offer their followers mooncakes paired with drip coffee. The treats come in trendy packages and contain filling flavors such as wine and cranberries, red bean yogurt, and meat floss and egg yolk.

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