Everything old is new again

Huang Yixuan
Industry experts discuss how Shanghai's time-honored brands can adapt to the age of the Internet
Huang Yixuan

Leading industry experts met on Tuesday to look at how Shanghai's time-honored food and beverage brands can face the opportunities and challenges of the Internet era.

The gathering — "New Momentum for Old Brands"— was hosted by the Shanghai United Media Group and organized by the Shanghai Morning Post.

Representatives of many famous brands with a long history, such as Sunya Cantonese Restaurant & Food, Xinghualou, Lu Bo Lang, Nanxiang Xiaolong and Dafugui Restaurant, met at the Wenxin United Press Building.

Chen Qiwei, general manager of the Shanghai United Media Group, said China is upgrading from a manufacturer of quantity to one of quality and Chinese brands should be upgraded in all aspects to improve their competitiveness and ability to expand into the international market. 

The time-honored brands are an indispensable part of Chinese brands, Chen said.

Time-honored brand is a formal title granted by the Ministry of Commerce to enterprises that existed before 1956, sell products, techniques or services passed down through generations and have a distinct cultural character.

Only by giving full play to the leading role of the brands, can they reform the supply and demand structure, Chen said.

Huang Qiong, director and Party secretary of the News Newspaper Agency, said that time-honored brands have been with us from us from an early age and are a common memory for generations. They not only represent nostalgia, but also need a spirit of innovation. 

There are still gaps in brand influence between China's old brands and many foreign old brands. Time-honored brands do not have to sell high-end products, but should have higher brand value and international influence through unique quality and products Huang said.

Zhou Lan, director of the market system construction department of the Shanghai Commerce Commission, said that in 2018, the nearest delivery order for online platforms was less than 50 meters. Meanwhile, delivery orders within 200 meters increased by more than 76 percent, while orders further than 5 kilometers rose about 248 percent. 

This indicates that although consumers are increasingly reluctant to go out, they are also reluctant to make do with food they don't like, Zhou said.

On the same day, ele.me and the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics jointly released a report on Shanghai's time-honored food and beverage brands, which aims to explore the new retail path for old brands.

According to the report, there are 180 "Chinese time-honored brands" in Shanghai, accounting for 16 percent of the country's total — more than any other city or province.

For these old brands, especially catering brands, good taste has become the core competitiveness of the brand, while "showy" products can only attract attention for a short time.

Officials from time-honored brands shared their experiences of adapting to the Internet era.

Cantonese food company Xinghualou set up an e-commerce department and opened a Tmall store early in 2014, and then launched its online stores also on JD.com and yhd.com in 2015. 

With the foundation it has laid on the Internet platforms, Xinghualou quickly sparked hot discussion on major social platforms after the launch of a new flavor of qingtuan (glutinous rice balls) in 2016, which highlighted the power of e-commerce and the Internet.

Data showed that in 2017, the annual turnover of the Tmall store of Xinghualou has reached 60 million yuan (US$9 million).

Zhang Xiaoming, general manager of the e-commerce department of Xinghualou, said the Internet needs topics to focus on — and time-honored brands can use that to win customers with innovative new products.

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