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Entrepreneurs bring Shaanxi food to mass market

By Miao Jiayu (chinadaily.com.cn)

Updated: 2016-11-24

“Hometown food is always comforting and reassuring, especially when I am working far away from my hometown of Shaanxi, alone and helpless,” said Cai Xiaolong, whose career began with a deep attachment to Xi’an food six years ago.

Not only famous for its long history and ancient architecture, Xi’an is also known as a paradise for foodies. However, for nonlocals, it is not so easy to find authentic Xi’an snacks. Although customers can now order online, the food’s quality and flavor tend to vary greatly, and often fail to match the taste of the original local food.

Cai, 23 years old, recognized the huge potential in the field and decided to build his own food brand. To recreate the unique flavor of Xi’an snacks, Cai and his friends undertook numerous trials on recipes and ingredients, before launching their own brand “Liangchengmei” in 2014.

The first product they made was Biangbiang noodles, also known as belt noodles due to their belt-like shape. When making the noodle, people lash them on a chopping board, which makes a sound resembling the pronunciation of “biangbiang”.

For the entrepreneurs, food is not only for eating, but also an illustration of culture. Therefore, a lot of effort was also put into creating packaging for the product. Instead of making it colorful and eye-catching, Cai adopted kraft paper and simple drawings, producing a plain and original style.

“To build the brand image of Shaanxi food, we must keep the original flavor while making the packaging innovative”, said Cai, explaining the ideas behind his design.

Entrepreneurs bring Shaanxi food to mass market

Cai Xiaolong’s Biangbiang noodles. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

In July 2014, Cai’s Biangbiang noodles made their debut in Huimin Street, also known as the Muslim Quarter, which is well-known for local snacks and Muslim culture. The initiative proved to be a success as the 5,000 servings of noodles they prepared were all sold out in a couple of hours.

The young entrepreneurs then included other snacks in their product catalogue, such as Liangpi, a cold dish made with flour, and rou jia mo, or meat burger –– all popular street foods in Shaanxi province.

Entrepreneurs bring Shaanxi food to mass market

Rou jia mo, or meat burger, produced by Liangchengmei food company. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

In October, their online shop opened on Taobao, a leading e-commerce platform for the Internet giant Alibaba. They ran promotions during the recent Double 11 online shopping festival launched by Alibaba on November 11, an annual promotional event, and saw significant sales.

“I would like to build a Shaanxi food incubator and offer help to those who want to start a food business”, said Cai, speaking about the promising future of Shaanxi food.

Now their products have reached major tourist spots in Xi’an, local supermarkets, and Xi’an railway station, and the entrepreneurs expect that Shaanxi specialties will be made available to the international market in the future.

Entrepreneurs bring Shaanxi food to mass market

Cai Xiolong and his team pose for a picture. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Edited by James Skinner

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