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Tales of success from the 10-year snail trail
 updatetime:2020-09-07 13:10:58   View:0 Source:China Daily

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In 2015, to further standardize the brand and promote sales growth, Liuzhou adopted the Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard and the Prepackaged Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard, and established the Liuzhou Luosifen Association. The standard was then divided into 10 parts with 55 sub-items, and specified in detail product classification, technical requirements for raw and additional materials, and process requirements for industrial production and processing. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

It's easy to be an underdog with little to lose; it's much harder to meet expectations when people expect greatness. Looking back at the development of luosifen, it is a history of setbacks and counterattacks.

Its amber and meaty snail broth is augmented by fermented sour bamboo shoots, dried beancurd sticks, peanuts and other toppings, and chili and vinegar are added to balance its richness. Herbs in the soup lend vegetable notes. In all it boasts a mixture of contrasting tastes.

Snail noodles originated in the late 1970s, and until 10 years ago luosifen was the preserve of the streets of the small town of Liuzhou in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region as a cheap snack. But in 2012 luosifen was given a starring role in the television series A Bite of China, and Liuzhou's well-kept secret instantly became a national phenomenon. It was then that those who run Liuzhou sniffed a huge business opportunity.

More recently luosifen has been given a fresh burst of life thanks to online commerce, but Ni Xiaoyang, president of the Liuzhou Luosifen Association, told Economic Daily in June that the current rage for luosifen cannot be all ascribed to the internet. Rather, he says, it is a late bloomer whose development path was set down through wise local government planning long ago.

Liuzhou is an important industrial town that accounts for a quarter of Guangxi's total industrial output. It is also one of the five largest motor vehicle production centers in the country, its production and sales of vehicles of exceeding 2.5 million last year, which makes it one of the national leaders.

Jia Jiangong, deputy director of the Liuzhou Municipal Bureau of Commerce, said that although one out of every 10 cars sold in the country is made in Liuzhou, this has not translated into national renown for the town. Into this breech luosifen eventually fell, becoming synonymous with the town, and contributing 6 billion yuan ($867 million) to its industrial output of 500 billion yuan last year.

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In 2015, to further standardize the brand and promote sales growth, Liuzhou adopted the Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard and the Prepackaged Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard, and established the Liuzhou Luosifen Association. The standard was then divided into 10 parts with 55 sub-items, and specified in detail product classification, technical requirements for raw and additional materials, and process requirements for industrial production and processing. LI HANCHI/ZHANG YANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Eight years ago the luosifen marketing strategists' main tactic was for restaurants to open throughout the country, particularly in first-tier cities. With government guidance entrepreneurs from Liuzhou were dispatched to Beijing, about 2,000 kilometers away, and opened more than 10 snail noodle shops in densely populated places such as Haidian and Chaoyang districts of the capital.

However, because these shops were small and sold luosifen only, their foul odor quickly filled the confined space, driving away many potential customers.

"Local delicacies often lose their souls if they leave their hometown,"Jia says.

To ensure the authentic Liuzhou flavor, many ingredients were flown to Beijing, which greatly increased operating costs.

However, it was Beijing's high rents that proved to be the biggest drag on the profit aspirations of the shops' managers. Jia said that many of the first batch of shops that opened in the capital, which had been regarded as something of a dry run, folded fairly quickly, and it was realized that using such outlets to promote luosifen was extremely inefficient.

After these setbacks in Beijing and in other cities policymakers in Liuzhou cottoned on to the idea that bagged noodles that could be consumed in the home were the way to go.

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In 2015, to further standardize the brand and promote sales growth, Liuzhou adopted the Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard and the Prepackaged Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard, and established the Liuzhou Luosifen Association. The standard was then divided into 10 parts with 55 sub-items, and specified in detail product classification, technical requirements for raw and additional materials, and process requirements for industrial production and processing. LI HANCHI/ZHANG YANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Since the first packaged snail noodles were sold in 2014 they have become a sales champion in the snack sector. With continuous upgrading of food production technologies such as rice noodle vacuum packaging, more research was done on creating menus and on standardization.

"With fresh foods such as snail noodles, if they're cooked only in restaurants the owner just needs to ensure they are cooked thoroughly," says Guo Xin, a marketing professor at Beijing Technology and Business University.

"But selling foodstuffs in packages to other regions requires a lot of prior study. This applies particularly to food sold in the hot and humid south, where it is prone to mold and may produce various toxins. So formulating food safety standards is essential."

In 2015, to further standardize the brand and promote sales growth, Liuzhou adopted the Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard and the Prepackaged Liuzhou Snail Noodle Local Standard, and established the Liuzhou Luosifen Association. The standard was then divided into 10 parts with 55 sub-items, and specified in detail product classification, technical requirements for raw and additional materials, and process requirements for industrial production and processing.

At the end of last year there were 81 registered companies with more than 200 brands of pre-packaged luosifen in Liuzhou, with average daily sales of more than 1.7 million bags. The value of sales of pre-packaged snail noodles was 6 billion yuan, 86 percent more than in 2018. In the first half of this year the value of sales was almost 5 billion yuan.

These companies are well aware that for their product to succeed it is not enough just to comply with food safety standards. Almost tasteless dehydrated vegetables that were long a feature of packaged instant meals are now almost passe, replaced by a rich variety of freshly packed vegetable toppings.

The snail meat needs to be evenly granulated, rice noodles need to be crunchy, the dried beancurd stick and peanut bags need to be filled with nitrogen to keep them crisp and fresh, the chilli oil needs to be fragrant, and the sour bamboo shoots and dried radish need to be relatively fresh, too. The wood ear mushroom should not be too soft or sticky.

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Since the first packaged snail noodles were sold in 2014 they have become a sales champion in the snack sector.  LI BIN/FOR CHINA DAILY

In May the country's first snail noodle industry college opened at Liuzhou Vocational and Technical College, and this month the Liuzhou Snail Noodle Industry College conducted its first training program, with plans to recruit 500 students this year.

"Booming sales of snail noodles are no accident," Guo says. "It reflects changes in current consumer demand and changes in retail marketing."

Apart from the unique attributes of the product, the biggest reason for its success may be that it meets the current young generation's fast consumption needs, he says.

According to a report by the online shopping platform Taobao titled Slackers' Consumption Data, sales of easy-to-cook foods such as self-heating hot pot and barbecue grew 150 percent in 2018, and since then the prevalence of the so-called slackers' economy, in which young people in particular have no time or no inclination to cook, has accentuated this growth. Sixty percent of those who consume snail noodles are reckoned to be under the age of 40.

"In addition to the pursuit of convenience and live-streaming promotion by internet celebrities, the fall of traditional instant noodles is another reason for the success of luosifen," Guo of Beijing Technology and Business University says.

Sales of instant noodles fell by 7.7 billion bags, or 16.6 percent, between 2013 and 2016, he says.

"People's interest in traditional fried instant noodles has decreased. But the need to quickly solve the problem of eating has not disappeared. In the meantime, snail noodles that are delicious and slightly healthier than instant noodles have emerged as a new fast food."

Snail noodles are also attracting connoisseurs overseas. In the first half of this year Liuzhou Customs registered about 7.5 million yuan of luosifen exports, eight times the value of exports last year, Liuzhou Municipal Commission of Commerce says.

Wang Jing, a luosifen aficionado in Beijing, says: "I never imagined that snail noodles would one day become so popular throughout the country. Perhaps they've touched everyone's g-spot, exciting a gene that produces rebellion against traditional aesthetics."


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