Have mooncakes lost their charm amid rational consumption?

Lacklustre mooncake sales on e-commerce platforms this year illuminate a pragmatic and health-conscious shift in the preferences of Chinese consumers.

The hashtag “Mooncakes aren’t selling anymore?” trended on Weibo (China’s Twitter equivalent) with 43.45 million views on the first day of Mid-Autumn Festival (29 September). Typically, the peak time for sales occurs one month before the festival itself, which roughly falls within the first two weeks of August. However, one e-commerce platform year saw a steep decline of 43% in mooncake sales during early to mid-August, plummeting from 160,000 units purchased last year to 91,000 units. Concurrently, mooncake sales revenue has decreased from 12 million RMB (approximately 1.65 million USD) to 5.5 million RMB (around 750,000 million USD).

Reports suggest that pragmatism has become the keyword of this year’s market, even for annual must-haves like mooncakes. From taste, to packaging, to pricing, Chinese consumers have evidently become more cool-headed and traditional in their shopping choices.

An online survey involving around 38,000 Chinese netizens shed light on possible reasons for this absence of enthusiasm. The waning festive atmosphere, the unappetising flavour due to excessive sweetness, coupled with an abundance of daily food choices, has all contributed to the “mooncake off-year”. Among these reasons, health concerns also stand out for individual consumers – mooncakes, while delicious, are known for high levels of sugar, oil and fat. A Weibo user humorously remarked: “People who enjoy mooncakes are from the older generations born in the 1960s/70s/80s, and they are dealing with diabetes!”

Fruits and seafood have become popular alternative gift options for this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival in response to the increasing emphasis on health among Chinese consumers. What is dawning in China’s market, heralded by this consumption trend, is the following slogan: Health matters, even during the Mid-Autumn Festival.


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