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Old brands develop for new era

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-04-17 13:24

TIANJIN - At a trade fair in North China's Tianjin, Liu Fang has found a kind of colored ink interesting.

The Ostrich-brand ink is mixed with golden powder, making written characters sparkle on paper.

Liu, a university student in Tianjin, said the brand reminded her of her childhood.

"I often used Ostrich ink when I was young," she said, deciding to buy a bottle of colored ink to record her daily expenses.

Set up in 1945 in Tianjin, Ostrich is among the 1,600 brands titled as "China time-honored brand" by the former Ministry of Internal Trade, which is part of the present-day Ministry of Commerce, in 1991.

The title is granted as a kind of recognition to traditional enterprises that sell products, techniques or services passed down through generations. Famous Peking Duck restaurant Quanjude, steamed bun brand Go Believe, and rice dumpling maker Wufangzhai are among them.

As more products come off factory assembly lines and customers have grown appetites for new things, however, some of the traditional brands are struggling.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, nearly one-third of the time-honored brands, including centuries-old scissor maker Wangmazi, no longer exist.

As China's expanding middle-income group has created a lucrative market for high quality products, the traditional companies representing excellent craftsmanship and Chinese characteristics are innovating to win the hearts of young customers.

Li Qiang, general manager of Ostrich ink, said the company had developed dozens of new products, including erasable ink as well as ink for cartoons.

At the ongoing China Tianjin International Fair for Investment and Trade, a special exhibition section has been allocated to time-honored enterprises.

Go Believe, or Goubuli in Chinese, plans to provide their products in a healthier way.

Chairman Zhang Yansen said they developed a kind of probiotic bacterium that survives heat up to 120 degrees Celsius. Ordinary probiotics will be killed under circumstances higher than 60 degrees Celsius.

The Tianjin-based steamed bun producer signed a cooperation agreement with Australian health product company Blooms Bluesky Holding last year, acquiring 78 percent of the latter.

Zhang said the bacterium may be added to fodder for pigs, so that the bun stuffing made from the pork would be better for human health.

This is not Goubuli's first cooperation with an Australian company.

In 2014, it joined with the coffee shop franchise Gloria Jean's Coffees and now owns more than 100 Gloria Jean's Coffee shops and Goubuli restaurants in China.

To woo young customers, internet giant Alibaba's Tmall opened an online shopping section in cooperation with Chinese traditional brands in September 2017.

Over the following three months, 600 brands established partnership with the section, with sales revenue of some brands surging by 80 percent. The platform also offered sales data and customer preference information to the brands so that customized products, such as eel-stuffed rice dumplings from Wufangzhai, were later sold online.

"Time-honored brands should adapt to the latest trends to embrace the demand of the young," Zhang said.

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