LookAtVietnam – Moon cakes, the traditional treat of the Mid-Autumn Festival are failing to attract consumers, despite healthy ingredients and reasonable prices.
Customers purchase moon cakes on Ba Trieu street. Although moon cakes are relatively cheap and contain healthy ingredients, interest seems to be flagging with consumers this year.
Nguyen Minh Hang, a sweet shop owner on Hang Buom street, said that she always sold more than 700 boxes of moon cakes every year, but she didn’t think she would see that number this year.
“Few customers have asked to buy moon cakes recently. I only sell three or four boxes a day. It should be 10 or 15,” Hang said.
“Most people ask to buy traditional cakes, which cost around VND20,000-35,000 (US$1.1-1.9) each. They are not interested in high-quality products with special fillings like caviar, abalone or salmon, due to their high prices – about VND50,000 ($2.7) each.”
These special fillings were the fastest sellers last year, she said.
Tran Van Nam, a moon cake seller at a bakery on Ly Thai To street, had only sold four out of 28 boxes since last month.
“About 15 boxes of Golden Moon, the company’s best-selling product which retails for VND295,000 ($14.3) per box of four, are still sitting on the shelf,” Nam said.
“Customers complain about high prices, and most people don’t want to spend much on moon cakes this year,” Nam said.
“There are a few big orders from companies and enterprises, but they mostly compare prices from different baking companies,” said Bui Bich Phuong, a cake seller at Ha Noi Confectionery Joint Stock Company on Ba Trieu street.
Nguyen Thuy Dung, resident on Hoang Hoa Tham street, said she would buy only two cakes and display them at the family’s altar instead of three boxes, like she usually did.
“Money is weighing heavily on my mind right now. If I cut down on what I spend on cakes, then I can put those funds towards something else,” she said.
Dung said that a good cake would cost about VND42,000 ($2.3), which was rather expensive.
“I think smaller sizes with lower prices would be better,” she added.
Nguyen Kim Oanh, resident on Kim Ma street, decided to spend her money on fresh fruit instead of sweet cakes this year.
“My daughter is a little overweight, and sweet food is not good for her health, so I prefer to celebrate the festival with fresh fruit,” Oanh said.
While lower prices were what consumers cared about most, high-quality cakes with higher prices were still on the market.
Nguyen Thi Dieu Hien, representative of the Bibica Joint Stock Company, a well-known sweet’s manufacturer, said that the company had focused on products with less fatty substances.
For example, some special flavours, which replaced meat with healthy foods such as caviar, mushrooms and oysters, had been introduced this year.
“New types of cakes, which contained isomalt sugars, processed from beets, are good for people’s health. It’s also suitable for those who are on diets or who suffer from diabetes,” Hien said.
“Cake prices will be the same as last year,” Hien said, adding that the company had planned to launch about 400 tonnes of cakes this year, an increase of 20 per cent over the last year.
Nguyen Hong Quan, representative of the Kinh Do Corporation, the leading commercial moon cake maker, said that cakes with natural ingredients would be suitable for diabetics and vegetarians.
The company had increased its total productivity to 1,600 tonnes of cakes, an increase of 10 per cent over last year, he said.
A Huu Nghi Confectionery Company representative said that the company would also keep the same cake prices to compete with other labels, despite the higher costs of ingredients, which had increased by 35-50 per cent over last year.
“Keeping the same prices urges consumers to buy more,” he said.
Quan, Kinh Do Corporation’s representative, said that there was still one month left before the festival, and it was too early to tell how good or bad the year would be.
“The financial crisis may have certain effects on consumers, and people may spend less on moon cakes,” Quan said. “But I think moon cakes are special treats for both adults and children.”
“We usually sell the most cakes over the next two weeks anyway,” he said.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News