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Bunfight over mooncakes

Update: August, 29/2013 - 10:46
Customers shop for mooncake in Ha Noi's Ba Trieu Street. Confectionery firms are competing sharply to grab the mooncake market this year. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Viet

HA NOI (VNS)— The mooncake market is getting busier as the Mid-Autumn Festival approaches fast and the slower economy has stepped up competition in the confectionery market.

As prices rise and consumer spending decreases, competition in the market for Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes has reached a fever pitch.

For confectionery firms, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second biggest holiday in the year and why businesses spend a lot on promotions and attractive packaging to catch a share of the market for traditional cakes this festival.

Increased supply

According to the General Director of North Kinh Do company, Tran Quoc Viet, the demand for mooncakes this year has been predicted as being higher than in previous years.

This is why the Kinh Do Corporation (KDC) has decided to market 2,400 tonnes of moon cakes, up about 10 per cent compared to last year.

This year, the Bien Hoa Confectionery Company (Bibica) also decided to market 550 tonnes of moon cakes, up 10 per cent compared to normal.

According to Nguyen Thi Thu Huong from KDC, a KDC moon cake stall has been operating outside Hang Da Market in Ha Noi's Hoan Kiem District since August 17.

Her stall can sell over 120 moon cakes a day, worth VND5 million (US$235). "Compared to the same period last year, the number of people buying moon cakes has not risen," she said.

Nguyen Thi Huyen, a sales agent for the Huu Nghi Confectionery JSC said, "we sell nearly 100 moon cakes every day, worth VND3 million ($142). This is slightly higher than last year."

The average price of moon cakes this year has increased by about VND3,000-4,000 (US$0.14-0.19) per cake, compared to last year due to the higher input costs of ingredients. However, consumers are also tending to buy more.

Almost every company believes that sales will surge next week as the increasing demand of cakes for gifts rises.

While the retail market has seemed quiet, manufacturers say that sales from their corporate customers, where businesses order large numbers of cakes for their employees, are holding up positively.

Kinh Do said that sales in this area have risen by 15 per cent from last year, while Bibica asserted that it has already reached 30 per cent of its targeted sales.

Firms battle it out

For this mid-autumn festival, several mooncake producers have launched a series of new high-end products with a wide range of traditional tastes, including green bean filled cakes, lotus seed cakes, green tea cakes, taro cakes and mixed sausage cakes at various prices.

Kinh Do focuses on luxury cakes for gifts. A package of ‘Trang Vang Kim Cuong' (Diamond gold moon) with 12 cakes costs VND2.5 million ($118) or ‘Trang Vang Bach Kim' (Platinum gold moon) with six cakes and a tin of Wulong Tea at VND1.2 million ($57).

According to KDC's Deputy General Director Nguyen Xuan Luan, Vietnamese people often presents mooncakes as gifts to show respect. This made KDC decide to develop high-end lines of mooncakes for this special occasion.

The Ha Noi Confectionery JSC (Hanobaco)'s luxury cakes range from VND450,000 ($21) to VND1.45 million ($68).

In addition to competing with each other on the prices front, confectionery firms are also attempting to attract customers with a variety of different fillings.

For instance, KDC decided to launch its Japanese Mochi-styled jam filled line of mooncakes with a range of different fillings such as strawberry jam, lemon jelly, marmalade, kiwi jam, lotus root jam and grapefruit marmalade to attract more customers.

Many cake makers are also introducing new flavours and special products for people on diets or suffering from diabetes to entice customers, using healthy ingredients like green tea, azuki beans or isomalt sugar.

Several other well known brands such as Hai Ha, Huu Nghi, Long Dinh as well as bakeries like Thu Huong, Nguyen Son and Paris Gateaux have also launched high-end lines of mooncake, priced from around VND1 million ($47) a box.

Hotels are now taking advantage of this festival, launching their special mooncake boxes with a mix of traditional and modern flavours and luxurious packaging.

The most expensive product on the market now belongs to Ha Noi Hotel's Vuong Kim Tri Ngo box of four cakes and a bottle of 30 year old Ballantine's Whisky, for VND11.9 million ($562).

Sofitel Plaza Ha Noi has unveiled its authentic hand-made Magnifique Mooncakes boxes with a gold-plated dragon or fish on the lid of the box. To obtain these products, customers have to pay VND3.5 million-6.5 million ($165-306) a box and order at least four days in advance.

Other hotels such as the Hilton Hanoi Opera, Sofitel Plaza, Daewoo Ha Noi, Crowne Plaza, Movenpick also offer luxury boxes of mooncakes and wine with prices ranging from VND650,000 ($30) to VND3.8 million ($180).

Traditionally made

Even though there is a variety of mooncakes made on industrial production lines, many people still prefer the taste of traditionally made cakes.

Therefore, some bakeries still follow the traditional methods and only use traditional ingredients in their cakes.

Shops like Gia Thinh, Ninh Huong, Tram Hoa and Bao Phuong are still popular places for those who love the old traditional flavours.

They have no need to advertise as these shops always have numerous customers.

The cakes there are labelled, "traditional" or "hand-made", with prices ranging from VND20,000-60,000 ($0.95-2.83) a box depending on the cakes filling and weight.

A customer at the Gia Thinh stall said that her family is fond of the natural flavours and unique taste of traditional cakes.

"We do not eat the cakes that use new ingredients and have strange flavours, even though they are said to be delicious and expensive," she said. "Therefore traditional cakes are what we usually choose for ourselves or give to our friends and relatives as gifts."

This year's Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 19. — VNS


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