Sunday, 17 February 2013

A Sweet (And Fattening) New Year

Golden-wrapped chocolates that are a favourite during Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is an excuse to eat lots of treats -- but why are many of them western?

For example, when I was a child, we would get lots of round tin boxes of Kjeldsens, and for some strange reason I'd only eat the butter cookie swirls followed by the plain rectangular-shaped ones, but not those sprinkled with sugar or with small hard raisins in them.

And then we'd also get tin boxes of Sugus candies. The packaging has changed now, but way back then they were packaged together in cellophane in the same colour and the blocks were put together in the box. There were red, orange, green, yellow and blue squares. Nowadays purple seems to have replaced green.

Anyone have a reason why Kjeldsens are still popular?
We'd also get the White Rabbit candy, but they weren't so popular. And good luck trying to give them to non-Chinese kids. They would wonder if you could eat the "paper" or rice paper wrapper and would be grossed out when you explained the paper was edible.

Since then Hershey's Kiss has muscled its way into the Chinese New Year candy selection, but perhaps the biggest winner is Ferrero Rocher.

The combination of the packaging and its fantasy advertising and marketing have made it so popular in Hong Kong.

Everyone likes receiving a golden-wrapped candy and it's not too sweet with a hazelnut in there, and many Chinese like nuts. The packaging looks impressive, making them look like jewels in a gold box.

Ferrero Rocher is based in Alba, Piedmont in Italy. And so aside from white truffles, Alba is also famous for making the famous chocolates the Chinese like to give and receive during Chinese New Year -- heck pretty much anytime of the year.

Swiss chocolate maker Lindt has tried to make headway with its colourfully-wrapped chocolates, but it's the gold wrapping from Ferrero Rocher that's winning customers.
Sugus candies are popular during new year festivities

These days I'm surprised to see Kjeldesens is still popular today -- mainlanders were crossing the border to Hong Kong before the new year to snap up as many tins as they could carry back.

Do they think eating fattening Danish butter cookies is the best way to ring in the Year of the Snake? Or perhaps the currency of choice to curry favours with family and friends?

It's also interesting other candy makers haven't seen the benefits of trying to get into the Chinese market specifically for Chinese New Year.

While Hong Kong people love to try the latest things, once they catch on in popularity mainlanders aren't far behind.

And yes, gold packaging does help!


  1. Re the butter cookies: can't quite recall if they were popular gifts for Christmas or Chinese New Year in Malaysia back in the 1970s, etc. -- but it was definitely for some festive occasion.

    Perhaps even amusingly: Sugus is such a big part of Malaysian life that I (mistakenly) thought they were a Malaysian product! Same, BTW, with Bata shoes for years until I saw them for sale also in Nairobi, Kenya! :D

  2. We definitely got butter cookies for Christmas and Chinese New Year... I think I ate tons of butter!!! Probably every kid things Sugus is a product of their home country!