Beijing's mooncake producers are hoping to revive the spirit of China's traditional Mid-Autumn Festival by packaging their products in simple, environment-friendly, recycled paper.
More than 40 stores have joined a municipal government campaign to sell mooncakes in simple packaging from Saturday, ahead of the festival that falls on Sept. 25 this year.
The mooncakes would be wrapped in recycled paper and packaged in paper containers, said Liu Jian, a marketing official with Beijing municipal bureau of commerce.
Leading producers, like Holiland, Guixiangcun and Weiduomei, are involved in the campaign.
"Customers can still buy mooncakes wrapped in expensive packages as gifts. We don't expect they'll want to change that right away. The recycled paper was introduced to promote the notion of environmental protection among consumers," Liu said. However he could not specify the proportion of mooncakes to be wrapped in recycled paper.
Holiland spokesman Li Xiaojun said, "At the request of government, we will provide an initial 5,000 boxes of mooncakes wrapped in recycled paper on Saturday, together with two other producers. But the total number this year will depend on the market response."
The simply-packaged moon cakes will be sold for 90 to 180 yuan (US$12 to 24) per box, depending on the quantity and quality, an average 10 percent lower than normal Beijing prices.
"As China's prices have soared recently, the costs of raw materials to produce mooncakes has increased by 10 to 12 percent," said Liu. Keeping the prices low would help stabilize commodity prices during the festival.
China's consumer price index, a key inflation indicator, rose by 3.5 percent in the first seven months, hitting 5.6 percent in July.
The rise has been mainly driven by food price hikes, which soared by 8.6 percent from January to July and contributed to 80 percent of the overall inflation, according to earlier report.
Liu hoped the packaging drive would help spread the concepts of frugality, rationality and health. "Luxurious packages not only distort the meaning of mooncakes, but are unnecessarily wasteful."
Mid-Autumn Festival, traditionally a time of family reunions, was designated an official festival in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). On the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, family members returned home and together ate mooncakes and watched the full moon.
In the past decade, mooncakes -- traditionally stuffed with sweet bean paste, egg yolks and nuts -- have been packaged in extremely expensive and elaborate boxes made of wood, silk or even gold.
In the last two years, the authorities have begun to discourage extravagance and waste in the sales of mooncakes.
(Xinhua News Agency September 1, 2007)