White Rabbit lip balm, spicy duck lipstick – Chinese food brands’ crossover beauty products

The first batch of White Rabbit lip balm sold out within seconds, and the nostalgic food brand isn’t alone when it comes to viral marketing of beauty products

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2018, 10:45am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2018, 7:14pm

The White Rabbit milk-flavoured candy has been a long-time favourite of Chinese children; however, the brand’s newest offering, infused with the essences of olive and sweet almonds, is not a piece of confectionery – it’s a lip balm.

In collaboration with Shanghai cosmetics company Meijiajing, the limited-edition product went on presale last month on Tmall, a Chinese e-commerce platform. The first batch of 920 sold out in seconds.

How China’s iconic White Rabbit sweets went from a Shanghai favourite to being known the world over

“How to make our brand younger, as well as adding nostalgia and emotion, is something we have been exploring,” says Shen Qinfeng from White Rabbit’s parent company, Guanshengyuan.

White Rabbit is one of several Chinese food companies to have introduced surprising crossover beauty products recently. Luzhou Laojiao, a 68-year-old Chinese liquor company, released a perfume earlier this year, while Zhou Hei Ya, a Hong Kong-listed company best known for selling spicy duck, introduced a line of “Hot Kisses” lipsticks in June.

In a country going through a rapid consumption upgrade and digitisation of shopping habits, companies are increasingly coming up with exciting concepts to attract young consumers who have higher spending power and are buying online.

“I feel for Chinese brands that have a lot of history like ours, we not only need to stay classic but become viral as well,” Meijiajing brand manager Li Chenshen told KNews on the launch of the White Rabbit lip balm.

Going viral translates into sales. According to the China Internet Report from the Post and 500 start-ups, Pinduoduo – a social e-commerce company that allows user to participate in group buying deals – has reached 100 billion yuan (US$14 billion) in gross merchandise sales in two and a half years. For Alibaba’s Taobao e-commerce platform (Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post), it took five years to reach this figure.

It is no coincidence, then, that Chinese food companies are choosing beauty products for crossover campaigns. Market research firm Euromonitor assessed the beauty and personal care industry in China to be worth 361.5 billion yuan in 2017. Lip products are growing especially fast, with a 35 per cent increase in the category’s total market turnover in the last year.

“Lip products continued to record the most dynamic growth in 2017[ …] In addition, limited editions will also boost sales,” wrote a 2017 Euromonitor industry report.

Seven surprising Chinese crossover fashion collections

The trend of food-themed beauty product crossovers seems to have been started by Pizza Hut, who launched a perfume with the tagline, “Smell ya later!”, in 2012. The campaign began as a joke on the company’s social media and eventually led to an unspecified number of the product being made.

Here are four beauty crossover products from Chinese food and beverage companies.

White Rabbit lip balm

News of the limited-edition lip balm generated hundreds of comments on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and the presale sold out in seconds. The packaging is designed to invoke maximum nostalgia as it looks exactly like the iconic candy that generations of Chinese children have grown up with.

“What if I mistake it for the White Rabbit candy and eat it?” one Weibo user posted.

Another release has been planned for November.

Zhou Hei Ya “Hot Kisses” lipsticks

The Wuhan-based food company is known for its spicy braised duck and went public on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2016. The Zhou Hei Ya “Hot Kisses” lipsticks were launched together with Chinese beauty company Unifon. It comes in three different shades.

The product was promoted by Tmall and Vogue, which filmed an advertisement featuring a model taking a bite out of a Zhou Hei Ya braised duck before applying the lipstick.

Luzhou Laojiao sorghum liquor perfume

The liquor company is named after Luzhou in Sichuan province, where sorghum liquor has been brewed for hundreds of years. The brand has a macho image, as the drink is popular with older Chinese men; however, the Luzhou Laojiao perfume, released this year, has a very feminine design with a light pink bottle and flowers on the packaging.

“Luzhou streets are filled with the fragrance of liquor. Now, Luzhou Laojiao will use a brand new way to interpret the charms of our city,” the company wrote in the advertising for the perfume, which is no longer on sale.

Fulinmen make-up remover 

Fulinmen is a manufacturer of cooking oils and its products can be found in many Chinese households. It worked together with cosmetics brand Afu on a make-up remover that was sold on Tmall.

The product features gold “fu” characters on its packaging, which is Chinese for happiness and makes up part of the cooking oil brand’s name.