CHINA Old domestic soft drink brands regaining popularity in China January 2021

In recent years, China saw the resurgence of local soft drink brands making a huge comeback after many years of ‘dormancy’ in the market.

One such brand is Asia Sarsae, a sarsaparilla soft drink identical to root beer first rolled out in Guangzhou in 1946. This drink has a strong herbal and minty flavor like Fengyoujing, a Chinese herbal remedy to relieve pain. While it has yet to rise back to prominence throughout China, it has captured the hearts of many local residents especially the older people as it brings back their childhood memories. Asia Sarsae uses ingredients like Ilex Asprella, a traditional Chinese medicine used to ‘clear heat’ in the body, as many Chinese believe that ‘heat’  trapped within the body can cause many ailments, especially in places with hot and humid climates. Due to this unique properties, Guangzhou residents drink Asia Sarsae to refresh themselves especially during summer hot weather.

Asia Sarsae, just like other domestic soft drink brands, started to disappear with the entry of beverage giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in the 1990s. Another popular local soft drink brand in Beijing, Beibingyang almost totally disappeared from the market. Meanwhile, cola brand Tianfu, once China’s top selling soft drink in the 1980s saw its market share plunged to 1% in 2005.

With strong re-branding, these old brands are now making their comeback over the past decade. Asia Sarsae re-branding focuses on ‘childhood memories’ and a brand new image for the drink which successfully pushed its sales to more than 100 million bottles in 2020. Asia Sarsae maintains the taste of ‘Fengyoujing’ in its drink but it has further improved its formula to make it healthier while rebranding itself to appeal to the younger consumers while offering a more diversified portfolio from low-calorie soda to fruit-flavored soft drinks. The brand participation in online shopping festivals also help to boost brand awareness of its products. Asia Sarsae is also expanding into convenience stores and famous restaurants to lure the younger consumers.

Meanwhile, Beibingyang started to make profit just 2 months after it resumed production in 2011 and by 2013, demand had exceeded supply. Once served at state banquets and considered a luxury product in Beijing, Beibingyang can now be enjoyed by everyone in and outside Beijing as the company increased production and introduce fruit flavors like loquat, plum and orange. Traditionally in glass bottles, it had also introduced can packaging to attract the younger consumers. Presently Beibingyang has also been exported to 12 countries.

The onset of COVID-19 could also have accelerated the growth of these old brands as Chinese consumers seek traditional but healthier alternatives to soft drink.




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