A Look Back at a Year Gone Viral: China Food and Beverage in 2017

The temperatures have dropped and the cities have quieted down, and everyone seems bunkered down for the new year. So, in the spirit of the new year, The Silk Initiative has been reflecting on trends in the China food and beverage industry in 2017, collected in our forthcoming year-end recap.

One of the topics we cover in the year-ender is the massive influence of the internet, turning regular F&B brands into “wang hong”, or internet sensations. This is not a new phenomenon of course, but it grew exponentially in 2017, with shop after shop becoming the new “must have” beverage or bakery product. Fuel for the fire has been the ever-growing selfie culture, the need to stand out by getting to the latest and greatest experience first, and the constant hunt for novelty and fun.

Can you guess two of the biggest?

chinese f&b trends

Brand #1

This tea brand was the king of wang hong in China in 2017, which single-handedly launched the “cheese tea” madness. A combination of an iced or hot tea with a whipped cheese topping, the sweet and savory combination drew customers to wait up to five hours at the first locations in Shanghai, and inspired the creation of an entire cheese tea category, with hundreds if not thousands of shops from competitors across China.

Chinese F&B trends

Brand #2

This company was one of the first wang hong in 2017 to really give a taste of how insane the phenomenon would become. A bakery chain from Beijing with regular lines in its hometown, the brand exploded overnight when it reached Shanghai, and queues stretched to several hours for their baked rolls filled with mayonnaise and topped with pork floss. Newspapers wrote about the baked goods, but also about the ticket scalpers, the undercover police battling the scalpers, and the people who ventured into the queue, often buying an armful of bakery goods for friends and family.

For more about the wang hong phenomenon in China this year, and the identities of these brands, subscribe and stay tuned for our 2017 year-ender publication, out in early January, where we dive deeper into wang hong brands, and the underlying need for fun and novelty that drives them.


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