Mooncakes Rising

Mooncakes are baked goods traditionally eaten during China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, which celebrates the moon and the fall harvest and is one of the most important Chinese festivals each year. Traditionally, mooncakes are round, two to four inches in diameter and up to two inches deep, with a filling commonly made of red bean or lotus seed paste, sometimes with the addition of a salted duck-egg yolk. Modern versions can come in a variety of shapes, colors, flavors, and filling types. Mooncakes are often featured in gift sets containing multiple cakes, sometimes combined with tea or other complementary items, in elaborate themed boxes. Luxury versions are frequently given as business gifts.

Licensing and collaboration play an important role in creating unique gift sets. Here are a few of many examples that were available in Greater China during the Mid-Autumn Festivals in 2019 and 2020:

  • Netflix and Pearl Studio, producer of the animated musical Over the Moon, paired with the New York-based luxury cake-boutique chain Lady M Confections, which has 34 locations throughout Greater China and Singapore in addition to its U.S. shops. The limited-edition mooncake set was packaged in a light-up, lantern-inspired box with laser-cut character images. Kee Wah Bakery supplied the cakes, in sweet egg custard and chocolate custard flavors; they were sold in the chain’s Asian stores. Over the Moon debuted on Netflix this past fall.
  • Quick-service chain KFC paired with The Palace Museum for its first-ever mooncake gift box, inspired by the Jade Rabbit of East Asian folklore, which lives on the moon and often plays a prominent role in the design of mooncake sets. The Palace Museum also collaborated with Nayuki, a tea brand, on a mooncake gift box.
  • Last year, Hong Kong Mei Xin, a pastry brand that markets products such as egg rolls and cookies with a focus on celebrations, and is well known for its mooncakes, launched Marvel Avengers and Disney Princess mooncake sets. Packaged in decorated tin boxes, the Marvel cakes featured the Avengers “A” logo and lava custard filling, while the Princess cakes were embossed with a crown design and were filled with creamy custard.
  • The Pokémon Company collaborated with Hong Kong’s Arome Bakery for licensed, custard-filled cakes featuring a Pokéball design, packaged in a Pikachu-themed box containing four cakes. The set came with an exclusive Pikachu tote bag.
  • Japanese streetwear label A Bathing Ape (BAPE) worked with Hong Kong’s The Peninsula Boutique on a set of mooncakes filled with egg custard, molded into the shape of the brand’s ape-head logo. The cakes were contained in a portable tin case in BAPE’s signature pink camo print. The set was available for free only to customers who spent a certain amount at BAPE and BAPE Kids boutiques in the city. Another brand from A Bathing Ape, AAPE, also paired on a similar set of promotional mooncakes with celebrity chef, singer, and actor Nicholas Tse.
  • Hong Kong restaurant Duddells partnered with Macao-based artist Hong Chong Ip, founder of the MO-Design brand, on a lava cream custard mooncake set with an LED lantern and signature gift box in a contemporary design.

These are just a few representative samples of the types of mooncake collaborations introduced in Greater China each fall. In addition to China, several other countries mark the Harvest Festival and include mooncakes as part of the celebration, opening up licensing opportunities there as well. In Thailand, Buono, a manufacturer of plant-based frozen foods, worked with illustrator Jun-Jun on a set of mooncakes flavored with durian fruit, in a package featuring the Jade Rabbit and the moon. And in Singapore, pastry chef Janice Wong partnered with Universal Brand Management on mooncakes that were shaped like Minions.

All of this serves as a reminder that there are niche licensing opportunities—often unfamiliar in other territories—awaiting property owners as they enter new global markets.

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