By Wang Xinyuan
Despite the recent increase in food prices, zongzi sales have continued to climb in anticipation of the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on Wednesday.
Zongzi, rice dumplings filled with dates or red beans wrapped with bamboo leaves, are traditional food eaten on the Dragon Boat Festival.
In the first week of June, more than 800,000 zongzi were sold, almost triple the quantity sold in the same period of last year, according to Taobao, China's largest online retailer.
The famous zongzi brand WuFangZhai's sales alone account for about 40 percent of all the online zongzi sales, Taobao said Saturday in a statement.
The price of zongzi has increased by 10 to 15 percent on average year-on-year as ingredients such as sticky rice became more expensive, said Wang Yongbo, the manager of e-Commerce Department with WuFangZhai
The price jumped 30 percent over last year, said Shi Kaijie, the store owner of Laiyifen & Xinghualou, a Shanghai-based zongzi seller.
The sticky rice cost about 3.6 yuan (53 cents) per kilogram last February but was 5.8 yuan (85 cents) per kilogram as of June 3, up 61 percent, according to data from foodqs.cn, an agricultural industry information portal.
Zongzi sold online is vacuum-packed and can be stored for 9 months. Most customers bought a packed zongzi priced around 100 yuan ($15). Wang said the online price is comparable to that of zongzi sold in supermarkets.
"Sales started to pick up at the end of May, as many customers already started to order zongzi for gifts weeks before the festival," Wang said.
Online sales are to reach 4 to 5 million yuan ($585,652 to $732,064) for the upcoming festival, compared with sales of 600,000 yuan ($87,847) in the same period of last year, he estimated.
The percentage of the online sales in the brand's overall sales could be improved from 1 percent to 5 percent, Wang said.
We've run out of zongzi and I'm worried about how to fill the orders already placed online, said Ye Junwu, owner of Huangchenglaoma store on taobao.com.
Since zongzi is seasonal food, Ye said that his suppliers stopped production afraid that sales would suddenly drop off after the festival is over.