Published: 15:54, June 4, 2021 | Updated: 15:54, June 4, 2021
Shanghai powers comeback of 'time-honored' brands
By He Wei in Shanghai

People shop at a White Rabbit candy franchise shop at Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai,China, on Oct 8, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

If you ever wax sentimental about White Rabbit candy and Pechoin facial cream, these decades-old Chinese brands are making a strong comeback.

Authorities in Shanghai are adding allure to "time-honored brands" by encouraging them to innovate recipes, packaging and production.

A campaign entitled "Design Shanghai 100+" that was held over the weekend is one recent effort to catapult more companies to the forefront of superior design and manufacturing excellence that could help them woo an increasingly sophisticated group of customers, according to the Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, an organizer of the event.

A three-day exhibition showcased over 100 local brands and launched 1,000 new products, with organizers hoping to facilitate sales of 10 billion yuan (US$1.56 billion), as the city pushes to advance local manufacturing might.

The gala selected exhibits from 1,541 design projects from 920 designer teams from around the country, and covered some 30 areas, including aerospace and aviation, transportation, robots as well as more consumer-facing segments like skin care, smart wearables, furniture and clothing.

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"We very much look forward to having such an authoritative, official, and serious industrial design platform," said Shao Jingfeng, deputy chief designer and global design director of SAIC Motor's technology center.

"We hope that through design, medical devices can also act as a conveyor of care and trust for patients," said Yao Chunjiang, design director of Shanghai United Imaging, whose latest MRI product occupies a quarter of the space of conventional facilities.

More consumer-facing brands spare no efforts in wooing younger customers, and dividends are paying off. White Rabbit and Bright Dairy's latest crossover ice cream selections have helped the duo add 250 million yuan worth of sales in the past year, said the commission.

Also, local ice cream brand Zhongxuegao adopted livestreaming to compete with international rivals and topped sales in the iced beverage category during last year's Nov 11 shopping gala, which is the largest online shopping festival in China by sales.

The magic of Shanghai brands lies in their ability to keep innovating and then translate abstract ideas into quality products thanks to its strong supply chain and manufacturing prowess, said Li Jiaqi, China's leading livestreaming host and product endorser.

"Good, innovative Chinese brands deserve to carry premium price tags. They should be put on a par with upscale international brands," Li said.

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As national pride becomes a prevailing sentiment among more younger consumers, local brands should seize the day to "occupy the minds of customers" through design, storytelling and supply chains, said Song Xiangqian, founding partner and chairman of Harvest Capital.

"For one, they should be keen to learn what the younger customers are after and keep abreast of the latest trends," Song said. "They also need a thorough understanding of human nature, and should design products and services that address these issues."

In February 2010, Shanghai joined UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a "City of Design", which represents its strong determination to improve design performance and innovation. A four-day trade show called Design Shanghai 2021 will end on Sunday, and has been featuring new designers, established brands and galleries from China and around the world.