20 Jan 2023 — The Chinese Lunar New Year is predicted to be a year of hope. In F&B, brands have unveiled a slurry of launches that celebrate the festivities, including bubble tea, corn snacks and confections that nod to the Year of the Rabbit.
Among the most celebrated and festive holidays in Asian culture, Lunar New Year (January 22 – February 9) brings family members and loved ones together to usher out the old and honor new beginnings through traditions that symbolize luck and fortune.
FoodIngredientsFirst takes a look at food developments that have been inspired by the Lunar New Year. Next to FMCG launches, McDonald’s USA is ringing in the Lunar New Year through a collaboration with viral video creator Karen X Cheng using AI technology.
A fun and festive line-up
In the UK, Marks and Spencer (M&S) is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a Chinese “fakeaway” banquet box. The feast includes egg-fried rice, spring rolls, Singapore noodles, chicken and black bean, and crispy sweet and sour chicken.
The retailer has an array of treats for consumers which are available across its Foodhalls, from fortune cookies, prawn crackers and gold chocolate coins.
M&S is also launching bunny bao buns, filled with sweet and sticky hoisin mushrooms. The fluffy steamed bao buns can be served as a starter or snack alongside dipping sauces, such as sweet chili, soy or hoisin.
Meanwhile, in the US, BobaBam, the frozen instant boba kit brand, unveiled a festive variety pack at over 200 locations across the Northeast and West Coast.
The variety pack features two of BobaBam’s latest flavors – Milk Tea and Taro – containing 14 packs with eco-friendly paper straws.
According to BobaBam, milk tea and taro are among the best-selling flavors at boba shops. Also, each pack is vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, nut-free, kosher and halal.
Consumers can add these sweet and chewy boba pearls to any drink, including traditional milk, plant-based milks, coffee or tea.
In other stateside launches, Noodle Girl has unveiled a crispy corn snack in a nod to the Lunar New Year celebrations. Chef Hang Truong, who has made her mother’s recipe available for years, has rolled out her latest savory snacks throughout the US.
The recipe for the corn snack, which is the “perfect blend of sweet, spicy and savory,” was developed by Chef Hang’s mother during the Vietnam War.
Chef Hang says she imports Vietnamese corn used in the recipe to “keep the snacks authentic.”
Cakes and confections
Lady M Confections, creator of Mille Crêpes, has collaborated with Sanrio, a Japanese entertainment company, to release the Lady M x My Melody Lunar New Year Gift Set. The gift box is adorned with illustrations of My Melody, a cake-eating white rabbit and includes six drawers that open to reveal Lady M Bon Bons.
Lady M’s limited-edition keepsake box features an interactive 3D pop-up diorama of My Melody and pull-out drawers containing the candy.
The gourmet candy flavors include: Golden Tangerine Pearls, Prosperous Plum Blossoms, Red Raspberry Jellies, Lucky Lychee Pearls and Sweet Cookie Puffs.
“Together, we were able to elevate super cute food for a truly memorable Lunar New Year celebration. It only makes sense to spotlight My Melody for 2023’s Year of the Rabbit with festive and limited-edition keepsakes adorned with beautiful red and gold designs to bring good fortune and prosperity into the new year,” says Craig Takiguchi, chief operating officer of Sanrio.
Down the rabbit hole?
Culinary brand P.F. Chang’s is honoring its roots in Asian tradition with unique in-restaurant experiences and limited-edition retail items available online.
Guests dining at the American-based, casual dining restaurant chain can enjoy P.F. Chang’s limited-time specialty crafted cocktail, Down the Rabbit Hole, featuring Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Rye Whiskey, Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur, lemon and honey.
According to Chinese proverbs, rabbits are known for their steady confidence and quick pivots throughout life. To fully immerse themselves in the excitement of the Lunar New Year, guests enjoying the Down the Rabbit Hole signature cocktail are treated to an augmented reality (AR) experience that brings the Year of the Rabbit to life by scanning the QR code on a special drink coaster.
McDonald’s immerses in metaverse
McDonald’s is another foodservice player leveraging digital experiences to honor the Year of the Rabbit. The fast food giant has partnered with viral digital content creator Karen X Cheng to launch an interactive Lunar New Year campaign, meeting brand fans the metaverse.
metaverse. Cheng is excited to bring her heritage and that of the AAPI community to life with McDonald’s this season.The collaboration includes creative designs by Cheng, particularly an experiential AR space featuring virtual 3D zodiac animal sculptures inside the
The campaign has also introduced an “AI-powered television commercial” inspired by Karen’s childhood memories of Lunar New Year. The ad spot is one of the first to incorporate neural radiance fields (NeRF) technology, which utilizes artificial intelligence to create a 3D scene. Viewers are invited to scan an on-screen QR code to experience the artwork featured in the commercial as an interactive AR filter.
“We know our fans live at the intersection of innovation and culture, and that’s where McDonald’s needs to meet them,” says Elizabeth Campbell, McDonald’s senior director, cultural engagement strategy.
“Our collaboration with Karen X Cheng offers new, tech-forward ways to experience the Year of the Rabbit while also honoring the legacy of the holiday and uplifting the AAPI community.”
By Elizabeth Green
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