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Coca Cola in China: “Not a Single Bottle of Coke Should Be Sold to Chinese”

Coca Cola in China: The first crates of Coca Cola arrived in Beijing in 1979. The majority of Chinese people had only known the drink from American movies, and were curious to try it out.

Manya Koetse

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The first crates of Coca Cola arrived in Beijing in 1979. The majority of Chinese people had only known the drink from American movies, and were curious to try it out. Those who did, did not particularly like it.

The first 3000 cases of Coca Cola arrived in Beijing in 1979. Its arrival to China did not come without controversy, as the brand formally represented the “Western capitalist lifestyle”. But the Cultural Revolution had come to and end, and Western brands were slowly but surely coming to mainland China.

After the restoration of Sino-American diplomatic relations, Coca Cola was one of the first international companies to re-enter China. The Coca Cola shipment was the result of an agreement between the company and the Chinese government signed in December 1978, which was meant to sell Coca Cola to foreigners in China; initial sales were restricted to specially designated outlets, such as hotels and “Friendship” stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. But ordinary Chinese people, who only knew Coca Cola from the movies, also wanted to drink it.

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The first cases of Coca Cola arriving in Beijing in 1979.

1979 did not mark the first arrival of Coca Cola in China. The brand had actually already come to China in in 1927. By the 1940s, it sold over 1 million crates a year in Shanghai. But in 1949, business stopped as Mao’s communists took over China.

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Coca Cola outdoor ad in 1980s Shanghai.

In the 1980s, Coca Cola started to work with the government to set up ways to locally produce Coca Cola for Chinese consumers. On the marketing side, there was much to do; although many people were curious to try out the new drink, there were also many who preferred hot drinks over cold ones, and were not used to the strange taste of cola. Much of the success of Coca Cola in China can be ascribed to its marketing strategy.

Coca Cola in Chinese (kekou kele可口可乐), actually can be translated as ‘delicious happiness’.

To make the drink more popular, Coca Cola staff went to shops in Beijing to promote the beverage during weekends in 1983. They gave away Coca Cola balloons or chopsticks with every bottle of Coke, that cost 0.5 yuan ($0.07). It was the first promotional commercial activity in China since the death of Mao, and it was condemned by the government as “introducing American style commercialism”. They issued that “not a single bottle of Coke should be sold to Chinese”. The order lasted for a year, until Cola Cola set up its first joint venture in China in 1984.

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1988 Shanghai Coca Cola ad.

In 1985, the government officially allowed Coca Cola to sell its products to Chinese people.

In 2014, Coca Cola celebrated its 35th anniversary in China.
China is now the third-largest market for Coca Cola, and 140 million servings are sold every day.

Featured image: Man trying out Cola Cola in Beijing in 1981. At the time, one bottle was sold for 0.45 yuan ($0.07). When asked what the man thought of the taste, he replied: “It is so-so.”

By Manya Koetse

Sources:

Chen Yu (ed). 2014. 中国生活记忆 [‘China Remembers’, ‘Memories From Chinese Lives’]. Beijing: Zhongguo Qinggongye Chubanshe.

China Daily. 2008. “Fantastic Fizz.” http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2008-11/10/content_7190391.htm [24.9.15].

Coca Cola. 2015. “Celebrating 35 Years of Coca-Cola in China.” http://www.coca-colacompany.com/history/celebrating-35-years-of-coca-cola-in-china [24.9.15].

Sohu. 2015. http://mt.sohu.com/20150702/n416070181.shtml [24.9.15].

Zhou Ke 周可(ed). 2014. Wo de Guxiang Zai Bashi Niandai 我的故乡在八十年代 [The 1980s, My Homeland] (In Chinese). Beijing: New Weekly 新周刊.

[box] This is What’s on Weibo’s “Throwback Thursday” section, where we take the time to look back on previous ‘trending topics’ in Chinese (social) media.[/box]

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Food & Drinks

Viral Video Exposes Wuhan Canteen Kitchen Food Malpractices

Boots in the food bowl, meat from the floor: this Wuhan college canteen is making a food safety mess.

Manya Koetse

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A video that exposes the poor food hygiene inside the kitchen of a Wuhan college canteen has been making its rounds on Chinese social media these days.

The video shows how a kitchen staff member picks up meat from the floor to put back in the tray, and how another kitchen worker uses rain boots to ‘wash’ vegetables in a big bowl on the ground, while another person is smoking.

The video was reportedly shot by someone visiting the canteen of the Wuhan Donghu University (武汉东湖学院) and was posted on social media on November 7.

According to various news sources, including Toutiao News, the school has confirmed that the video was filmed in their canteen, stating that those responsible for the improper food handling practices have now been fired.

The Wuhan Donghu University also posted a statement on their Weibo account on November 8, saying it will strengthen the supervision of its canteen food handling practices.

“The students at this school will probably vomit once they see this footage,” some commenters on Weibo wrote.

Wuhan Donghu University is an undergraduate private higher education institution established in 2000. The school has approximately 16,000 full-time undergraduate students.

“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” one popular comment said, receiving over 25,000 likes.

Students from other universities also expressed concerns over the food handling practices in their own canteens, while some said they felt nauseous for having had lunch at the Wuhan canteen in question.

By Manya Koetse

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China Food & Drinks

Famous Goubuli Restaurant Calls Police for Getting Roasted Online, Gets Kicked Out of Franchise Group

Goubuli Wangfujing shows how NOT to address a social media crisis.

Manya Koetse

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The well-known Goubuli Wangfujing restaurant just got a bit more famous this week. The branch, which specializes in steamed buns, is now not just known as one of Beijing’s worst-rated restaurants, but also as a business that shot itself in the foot by handling a social media crisis the wrong way.

The famous Wangfujing main branch of Goubuli Steamed Buns (狗不理包子) is caught up in a social media storm since responding to a blogger’s negative video of their restaurant by contacting the police.

The video, Goubuli’s response to it, and the following consequences have hit the top trending topic lists on Weibo today.

Goubuli, sometimes transcribed as Go Believe, is a well-known franchise brand of steamed stuffed buns (baozi) from Tianjin that was founded in 1858. The brand now has more than 80 restaurants in mainland China, 12 of them in Beijing. Since Wangfujing is one of Beijing’s most famous streets, the Wangfujing branch is popular with both foreign and Chinese visitors.

 

Gu Yue’s “Visiting the Worst-Rated Restaurant” Video

 

The social media storm started on September 8, when Weibo blogger Gu Yue (谷岳) posted a video titled “Visiting the Worst-Rated Restaurant” (“探访评分最差餐厅”). Gu Yue is a travel blogger with over 1,7 million fans on Weibo.

Gu Yue in front of Gubouli.

In the video, Gu Yue starts by explaining he chose to visit Gubouli after searching for the restaurant that receives the lowest ratings in the Beijing Wangfujing and Dongdan areas on the super-popular Chinese mobile food app Dianping.

The blogger found that, out of the 1299 listed restaurants in the area, Wangfujing Goubuli Baozi was the worst-rated place. Ironically, the brand’s name Gǒubùlǐ (狗不理) literally means ‘dogs don’t pay attention,’ which makes the name ‘Goubuli Baozi’ sound like a place with stuffed buns that even dogs would not eat.

Complaining about the service, prices, and quality of food, many Dianping users rated the restaurant with just one out of five stars.

Gu Yue then sets out to visit the restaurant himself to see if Gubouli on Wangfujing really is as bad as Dianping users say. He orders some steamed braised pork dumplings, 60 yuan ($8.7) for 8, and regular pork dumplings, 38 yuan ($5.5) for 8.

The blogger concludes that Gubouli’s dumplings are not worth the money: the dumplings are greasy, the dough is too sticky, and they do not have enough filling. Gu Yue’s video also suggests that the restaurant’s hygienic standards are not up to par, with loud coughing coming from the kitchen.

Gu Yue’s video received over 97,000 likes and thousands of responses on Weibo, with many fans praising the idea of the blogger checking out the worst-rated restaurants.

 

Goubuli’s Reaction Starts a Social Media Storm

 

The Wangfujing branch of Goubuli did not appreciate Gu Yue’s video.

In an online statement on September 11, the branch accused the blogger of spreading lies about their restaurant and harming their reputation, and demanded a public apology.

Goubuli Wangfujing called the video “vicious slander” and stated they had contacted the police in relation to the matter.

The hashtag “Wangfujing Goubuli Responds to Netizen’s Negative Video” (#王府井狗不理回应网友差评视频#) immediately went viral on Weibo, attracting some 430 million views.

Many Weibo users were outraged about the way the Goubuli branch handled the situation. “Aren’t we even allowed to say if something is tasty or not?!” many commenters wondered, with others writing: “You are harming your own reputation!”

“Let’s call the police over the quality of your food,” others suggested.

There were also many netizens who commented that some Chinese Time-Honored brands, such as Goubuli, often only survive because of their history and fame rather than actually delivering good quality to their customers.

Following the major online backlash on its statement, the restaurant soon removed their post again. But the social media storm did not end there.

On September 15, the Goubuli Group issued a statement saying that it would directly terminate its franchise cooperation with the Goubuli Wangfujing branch over the incident.

With over 280 million views on its hashtag page (#狗不理解除与王府井店加盟方合作#), news of the franchise termination blew up on Weibo.

According to the latest Weibo reports on September 15, the Wangfujing Goubuli branch was closed for business on Tuesday (#狗不理包子王府井店门店关闭#).

“This is the power of clout,” one person comments: “If it were not for the [Goubuli] restaurant’s flawed marketing department, this would not have led to their closure.”

“The restaurant has brought this on themselves. There’s nothing wrong with posting a bad review.”

Another person comments: “This is the first time I’ve seen a marketing department making something big out of something small, leading to their own closing.”

Meanwhile, blogger Gu Yue says that he was not contacted by Goubuli, nor by the police. The social media controversy has only made him more popular.

“Gue Yue single-handedly crushed this restaurant,” some say, appreciating how social media has increased the power of Chinese consumers to make or break a business.

 
Also read: Overview of the Dolce&Gabbana China Marketing Disaster Through Weibo Hashtags
 

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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