Baristas prepare coffee at an Easy Joy cafe, a brand of State-owned gas and petrochemical enterprise Sinopec, in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. [Photo by Hu Qingming/For China Daily]
Dazhaxie, or hairy crabs, and salty egg yolks, popular mooncake fillings, are both autumn delicacies that have also become new coffee flavors at a convenience store chain in Beijing.
But don't be put off by the names of these odd new flavors.
The new drinks do not contain any actual crabmeat or eggs. They simply "borrow" aspects of the flavors from the crab and yolks to create new coffee fusion tastes.
Bianlifeng, the Beijing-based digital-friendly convenience store chain, developed the unique freshly-brewed coffee flavors to attract adventurous young consumers. They are also attempting to form a beverage "challenge" on social media among trend followers through such innovations.
With more than 1,500 stores, Bianlifeng has installed Switzerland-made self-serve vending machines to consumers to make their brewed coffee of choice in less than a minute.
Consumers can fulfill their orders through Bianlifeng's mobile applications and WeChat mini-programs at stores, and their orders can be delivered to selected addresses. They use arabica coffee beans that are roasted domestically.
Priced at 12 yuan ($1.78) a cup, coupons and specials are often available, which bring it down to around 5 yuan or 6 yuan.
"Coffee sales in business districts or near office buildings have been impressive, with US coffee and latte being the most popular," said Xue Enyuan, executive director of Bianlifeng convenience stores.
The convenience store chain has rolled out new flavors by seasons and occasions to lure consumers to challenge their conventional ideas."The overwhelming response from the market has extended the new autumn flavors," Xue said.
According to research firm Mintel Group's report "On-premises Coffee Consumption in China" released in December, many convenience stores in China are running on-site coffee businesses and their coffee outlets have benefited from quick expansion as convenience stores have already expanded and cover a large area.
Li Chen, deputy director for food and beverages at Mintel, said brewed coffee at convenience stores is often sold with food, especially during breakfast hours. Price sensitive consumers are often willing to trade down to have coffee drinks at convenience stores, which are also closer to workplaces, she said.
In China, on-premises coffee outlets reached 126,000 last year. In the next five years, market volume is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 11.9 percent. The market is mainly driven by the increasing number of small-sized coffee shops.
FamilyMart's ParCafe plays an important role in this market and is expected to see quick expansion. Moreover, a new player, Easy Joy C-store, has entered the market and opened Easy Joy coffee houses.
Sinopec's Easy Joy is planning to capture more market share by taking advantage of its numerous C-stores. However, the expansion will take time, given that people who often drive on highways are not heavy coffee drinkers. Also, there are many energy-boosting beverages with more convenient on-the-go packaging that are sold in C-stores at highway rest stops, which are strong competitors of on-site coffee.
"Coffee at convenience stores has grown well in China, boosted by their competitive prices compared with those of traditional coffee chains," said Jason Yu, general manager of Kantar Worldpanel China.
"Brewed coffee at convenience stores offers immediate satisfaction for consumers. The new retail model that enables delivery to consumers' homes or offices from convenience stores is also attractive,"Yu said.