Small Chinese brands gain big names overseas

Mayinglong Musk Hemorrhoids Ointment Cream. Photo: China Daily

A time-honored ointment produced in China that relieves an embarrassing condition is gaining popularity in the United States.

Mayinglong Musk Hemorrhoids Ointment Cream has earned the praised of reviewers, who are calling it magic from the East, with a 4.3 out of 5 rating from more than 1,000 comments on Amazon.com.

Such success is overshadowing chili sauce Lao Gan Ma, which has been in favor in the US and many other countries for at least a decade. Lao Gan Ma won the same rating on Amazon.com, but had only 77 customer reviews.

Over the past decades, Chinese products, from food to daily commodities, have been bought overseas through either well-planned promotions or gradually by the growing number of Chinese people going abroad.

"Generally speaking, what foreigners prefer among Chinese items are those with strong Chinese characters and flavors, such as qipao (cheongsam) and red paper cutouts for window decorations. Ultimately, it all comes down to quality. Good wine will always sell itself, and it has become particularly true in today's internet shopping age," said Shun Zi, a native of Shandong province who moved to Los Angeles with her family a decade ago.

Some of the US customers, who had suffered from hemorrhoids for as long as seven years and could only resort to surgery, according to doctors, felt much better after using the product for only a couple of hours.

"The person who created this stuff should receive a Nobel Prize, front row seats at the Olympics, an entire stable of miniature giraffes, and free Ivy League education for their children," wrote one user who claimed that she could not even sit or stand the day before using the cream but could function the following day.

"This magic cream will make you whole again. You will not shift endlessly in your work chair while attempting to crush the evil troll living in your rectum. You will not wince at the thought of having to go potty. Now, I waltz right in the men's room and proudly purge burrito with cheese of last night, and I don't flinch," reads another comment.

Others even complimented China.

"Sorry team America, China wins on this remedy," reads one comment.

"Once again China has bailed us out," reads another comment, where the user also wrote that he would never be without a tube of this in his medicine cabinet.

Mayinglong Pharmaceutical Group, based in Wuhan, Hubei province, declined to take media interviews about the sudden fame. A manager from the group's marketing department, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told China Daily that "it was utterly a spontaneous eruption of word of mouth and the company never interfered".

Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun demonstrates his company's big-screen smartphones last month in Beijing. Photo: China Daily

Inexpensive but great

Natalie Simon recently became a firm fan of Xiaomi, a Chinese technology pioneer, buying a Xiaomi smartphone four months ago and later a fitness-tracking wristband.

"I searched the internet for a smartphone with outperforming camera function and Xiaomi came into my spotlight. Users gave impressive reviews, not only in its camera but the overall performance," said Simon, a PhD student in Paris.

She didn't hesitate to place an order on the company's website. The mobile phone didn't let her down.

"One can purchase seven Xiaomi smartphones with the price you pay for an iPhone, but their differences seem trivial in most cases," Simon said.

Not long after that she bought a wristband.

"Once again, it's cheap and useful. So I recommended it to my brother and many peers and friends," she said.

In Australia, where there are abundant local options for health products and medicines, and people generally have strong trust for local brands, Kate Brooks said she recently tried a Chinese ointment to relieve burns and found it very effective.

"Two Thai friends first introduced the product made with Chinese traditional medicines and herbals to me. They said it was super useful for them to treat burns and cuts," said Brooks, a resident of Melbourne.

"It must be very popular with Asians here and I will recommend it to Westerners here for sure."

Unlike these newcomers, Dragon and Tiger brand balm from China has been popular overseas for decades. A search of the balm, which is made with a traditional herbal formula to relieve pain, itching, sore muscles and fatigue, showed 33 results on Amazon.com.

Zhang Nan, who runs a small shop near Yu Garden, a must-see spot for first-time visitors to Shanghai, said the balm is popular among foreign tourists.

"People from many parts of the world, including the Middle East, France and Canada, to name just a few, buy the product from me. Their enthusiasm for the balm is as high as Chinese people purchasing luxury bags overseas," Zhang said.

Information on the company website showed that the balm, also known as qingliangyou, has been exported to more than 80 countries.

Lao Gan Ma chili sauce is one of the most popular Chinese food items on the overseas market. Founded in Guizhou province in 1996, Lao Gan Ma has been the country's largest manufacturer of chili sauce. Photo: China Daily

Chinese food stars

Will Covey from North Carolina had never thought someone could be addicted to a sauce until he met his Chinese wife from Shanghai.

Covey often saw her put spoonfuls of red spice from a jar with an old lady on it into everything-stir fry, rice and even pasta-when they met five years ago.

"I smelled the stuff, but the spicy aroma didn't appeal to me at first," Covey said.

Now, he eats it almost every day-on top of eggs for breakfast, mixes it with garlic and eats it with dumplings, and sometimes just puts a spoonful of the sauce directly into his mouth.

More than 1,100 people from all over the world established a Lao Gan Ma Appreciation Society on Facebook. It seems from their posts that they can't live without the chili sauce.

"When you marry a Chinese woman, it means you actually tie the knot with two women, your wife and the boss of Lao Gan Ma, who is the old lady on the jars," reads one comment on Facebook.

Shi Hao, who was born and raised in Shanghai and has lived in Sydney for nearly two decades, said that until around five years ago, the chili sauce was only found in Chinatown, but now it's everywhere.

"It sells at around A$3 in Coles and Woolworth, the major local supermarkets here," said 34-year-old Shi.

Xiaolongbao (steamed pork dumplings), a favorite Shanghai treat that has become popular at home and abroad, is a signature dish served in Din Tai Fung, a chain Chinese restaurant. Photo: China Daily

Another thing that inevitable gets mentioned when talking about popular Chinese items in Sydney is Din Tai Fung, a chain restaurant selling xiaolongbao (steamed pork dumplings), a favorite Shanghai treat that has become popular in many parts across China.

"People always seem crazy to head to Din Tai Fung. There are three outlets in Sydney and every time I go there for lunch, there are long lines and people have to await at least 20 minutes before getting a table to sit down," Shi said.

Qian Ying, a Shanghai native who moved to Seattle five years ago, also reported people's affection for the chain restaurants selling the little dumplings known for thin skin and meat filling with juice inside.

"There is one outlet in downtown Seattle and one in Bellevue, which is 10 minutes' drive from Seattle. There will be a new restaurant opening later this year," said Qian, 28.

She said long lines are unavoidable for lunch and supper, even on workdays, and suggested people arrive before 4 pm for supper unless they want to stay in line for an hour.

"Most people are not Asians. Xiaolongbao, potstickers and beef noodles are the best sellers," she said.

Other popular products overseas

1. Qingdao Beer

British and German business people first started to manufacture the clear and icy beer in Qingdao, Shandong province, in 1903, with quality raw materials and Laoshan mineral water. The company now has more than 50 production centers in 19 provincial-level regions in China, exports to more than 70 nations and has won firm fans. It first appeared in Europe in the 1950s and made its debut in the United States in 1972. Sales volume of 1.24 million cases in 1988 made it the largest Asian beer brand in the US.

2. White Rabbit creamy candy

First manufactured in 1943, the milk candy soon became so famous that it was used as a gift item during the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Later, in 1972, then-premier Zhou Enlai gave White Rabbit candies to then-US President Richard Nixon during the latter's visit to China. The candies soon became popular overseas too, with many Americans giving them away as Easter gifts that year.

3. Warrior sports shoes

The 89-year-old Shanghai shoe brand Warrior, also known as Huili in Chinese, became fashionable in Europe after Hollywood star Orlando Bloom wore a pair of sneakers on the set of a movie that looked exactly like the classic style of Warrior, the canvas shoes with rubber soles and toecaps that Chinese born from the 1960s to the 1980s were proud to own a pair of in their childhoods. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the shoes were among the top brands that tourists snapped up as souvenirs. Export sales more than doubled in two years from 4 million yuan ($608,000) in 2009.

4. Zhenjiang vinegar

The pure black vinegar produced by Jiangsu Hengshun Group is popular among US residents as well as many in Europe as a perfect dipping sauce for jiaozi and xiaolongbao. The export of the vinegar can be traced back to 1909. The group has a department operating its sales channels overseas but the group declined to reveal detailed sales figures.


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