China's Mooncake Madness | EYE ON ASIA

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China's Mooncake Madness

The Mid-autumn festival is one of the grandest festivals in China, second only to the Chinese New Year.


It falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar where the moon is said to be at its fullest and brightest. For most cultures that celebrate it, the Mid-Autumn Festival is marked by three things: family, the full moon, and mooncakes.


With the festival recently concluded, we take a look now at how brands have made the most of one of these themes – the indispensable mooncake.

The mooncake is a round pastry with a dense filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste. These tasty treats contain thousands of years’ worth of tradition that fits in the palm of your hand and are commonly given out as gifts during the Mid-Autumn festival. Each year around $2 billion worth of mooncakes is sold.


It's not just the taste or the history behind it that makes the mooncake indispensable, however. It's the meaning behind it – an unspoken etiquette used in establishing connections and even furthering interests.


Mooncakes aren't just bought to be shared with family and friends. They're also sent to clients, business partners, etc., as a means of networking and cultivating social capital. The more luxurious the ingredients used, the more important the relationship is established.

China's Mooncake Madness

And it’s not just local bakeries or food brands who’ve been capitalizing on this. Even Western luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have jumped on this opportunity by creating high-end mooncake gift sets complete with elaborate and intricately-designed packages as part of a marketing campaign specially designed for the holiday. These sets are sent to high-profile key opinion leaders (KOL) and are thus promoted on their social media pages.

Creative packaging is one way of getting a better reach your name out there. The more aesthetically-pleasing the design, the higher its 'shareability' and likelihood of going viral. “Do it for the gram,” as the saying goes.


But packaging isn’t the only way of getting attention during China's mooncake madness. For food brands, it’s also about giving a new spin on this age-old pastry. Luxury ice cream brand, Häagen-Dazs, put a twist to the treat by releasing snow skin mooncakes – an ice cream version of the traditional treat made with a mochi outer skin and fruit-jam filling.


Even Starbucks, known for its hyperlocalized marketing campaigns have launched their own line of mooncakes, complete with a mermaid logo.


China's Mooncake Madness

The mooncake has transcended from simply being a food item and the face of an age-old tradition. As with any tradition, new meaning is attached as it enters the modern world. Just like the stories where hidden messages were circulated via mooncake, leading to a successful uprising, the mooncakes of today still carry with them messages of their own.

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