Museums Mark Mid-Autumn

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a celebration of the Harvest Moon that takes place in China and other parts of Asia, this year on September 21. In the lead-up to this big holiday, designers and fashion labels, chefs, hotels, corporate brands, characters, and video game properties have increasingly partnered for gift sets containing mooncakes, a delicacy consumed during the Harvest season each year. These include a wide variety of configurations, ranging from intricately designed, limited-edition luxury gift boxes featuring traditional or modernized mooncakes, often packaged with other gift items, to versions from big mass-market CPG companies and retailers.

One property type that has been particularly active in the mooncake space in 2021 is museums. Following are some of the collections inspired by both local and international institutions that have come out since July of this year, in anticipation of next week’s Festival:

  • The Shanghai Museum partnered with snack company Lyfen for several varieties of mooncakes. One sold out immediately and another ranked in the top five mooncake offerings online. The initiative includes a collection co-branded with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, an East-meets-West set including mooncakes based on several famous artworks from both collections. Lyfen’s brand ambassador, Wang Yibo of the boy band UNIQ, endorsed the product.
  • The Louvre paired with Häagen-Dazs for ice cream mooncakes, a modern iteration of the traditional pastries. The collection is themed around pieces in the Louvre’s collection, including the Mona Lisa, Athena, and the Venus de Milo. Visitors to Häagen-Dazs’ Tmall shop can take interactive tours of the museum and register to win mooncakes and Louvre gift products. The chain has about 100 stores in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
  • Guangdong Times Art Museum, a community-based organization in Guangdong (the province of which Guangzhou is the capital) that brings art into public and private spaces, has offered mooncakes for the past couple of years. This year, it paired with two other institutions, Shunde Art Museum in Guangzhou and Pingshan Art Museum in neighboring Shenzhen for additional co-branded collections in black truffle and brandy flavors, along with producing sets under its own brand.
  • Senses AMuseum, a Van Gogh-themed gift shop in Hong Kong that is a licensee of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, is selling Van Gogh-themed custard mooncakes, along with 3D art playing cards and glasses, packed in a box showing the Hong Kong skyline with a sky reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “A Starry Night.” The products are available in the retailer’s two physical stores and its online shop.
  • The Palace Museum has been releasing Forbidden City mooncakes since 2017, but this is the first year it has partnered with the mooncake brand Xing Hua Lou. The collaboration includes two Cantonese mooncake gift packs inspired by artifacts in the museum’s collection, with six pastries per pack in rose bean past, cream coconut, and lotus paste flavors.
  • Guangzhou Museum partnered with China Hotel, also located in Guangzhou, for a set of traditional cakes made from a hundred-year-old recipe. The gold-and-red box takes its cues from a Cantonese Manchurian window.

Museums have been offering mooncake sets for several years, including some of the institutions mentioned here. But the landscape seems to be particularly full of examples in 2021. Not only have these and several other museums released branded products, but there have been more collaborative efforts than ever.

All told, the market for mooncakes in China is estimated at 21.81 billion yuan (about U.S. $3.38 billion) this year. This figure represents an increase of almost 6.3% from 20.52 billion yuan ($3.18 billion) in 2020 and an increase of 65% from 13.18 billion yuan ($2.04 billion) in 2015, according to iiMedia Research Group. The growth has been driven largely by Gen Z interest in this traditional Festival treat.

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