Across China: Trendy drinks make commonplace fruit cup of tea for Gen-Z

For 24-year-old Sun Ailin, persimmon is an old-fashioned fruit that is in her childhood memory and never makes it onto her supermarket shopping list, but she has developed a soft spot for the sweet orange fruit this autumn.

Sun now consumes about five persimmons a week, but not in its original form. After lunch every workday, the IT white-collar worker routinely orders a bottle of tea drink made with persimmon.

"It tastes a little like cheese. With minced ice, green tea, and konjac jellies, the drink makes persimmon tasty," said Sun.

The persimmon tea drink, rolled out in late September by Chinese popular drink chain HEYTEA, has gained favor among many young consumers like Sun. HEYTEA said the persimmon tea drink is one of its best-selling drinks this autumn, with a record daily sales of about 100,000 bottles.

"Its orange color feels warm, and most importantly, the drink has an auspicious tag," Sun said, referring to persimmon's good-luck connotation in its Chinese name.

Many tea drink brands have rolled out similar products this autumn, and desserts made with persimmons are also getting popular, making the once-ordinary fruit a trending topic on social media platforms.

Data from the Chinese e-commerce platform Meituan showed that in October, sales of persimmon-themed food and drinks rose over 200 percent month on month. Eastern cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou, which are not traditional consumers of persimmon, were the leading spenders.

China's top persimmon producer, Fuping County in northwestern Shaanxi Province, is one beneficiary of the innovative persimmon products trend. Several drink brands, including HEYTEA, choose the county as their raw material supplier.

The annual output of fresh persimmon in Fuping stands at about 250,000 tonnes, and processed dried persimmon is 60,000 tonnes.

"The majority of our persimmons are processed into dried fruits," said Chen Taoliang, owner of a local farming cooperative. "We tried other products, but most of them fell flat."

The consumption-leveraging power of popular food and drink brands has put other fruits under the spotlight before. Coconut coffee, ice cream, and milk tea are hot sellers this summer. Amla, a niche fruit mainly consumed in south China, has gained wider recognition thanks to several popular tea drinks and fruit juices.

Liu Zhenwen, a catering company owner and veteran tea drink developer, estimated that the persimmon products can be sustainable as some brands are developing fruit puree to extend its sales season.

"Even if persimmon turns out to be a fleeting star, there would be other fruits emerging on the stage via trendy drinks," Liu said.

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