Market's attack on snacks

Date:2011-09-07wangxin  Text Size:

The closed Beijing snack stands at Jiumen Snack Market in Houhai on Monday. (Photo: Guo Yingguang/GT)


Eight traditional "old Beijing" snack vendors have been forced out of Jiumen Snack Market near Houhai because of management fee hikes.

Three of the 12 stalls selling Beijing time-honored snack brands in the Xicheng district market were empty on Monday, while another five stalls had covered up their signs with red cloth. The signs reading "China Time-Honored Brand" authorized by the Ministry of Commerce were still hanging next to the empty snack stands.

A map on the wall shows that the eight stands were for Qian Family's rice cakes (Nian'gao Qian), Ma family's sheepshead product (Yangtou Ma), bean curd jelly (Doufunao), Wei family's cheese (Nailao Wei), Feng Family's boiled tripe slices with sesame paste (Baodu Feng) and other snacks. Eleven of the twelve family-owned businesses moved from the Qianmen area into the market.

"These snack brands refused to continue the contract, OK, we let them go," an official surnamed Liu with the Jingshi Jiumen Snack Management Company told the Global Times on Monday. She confirmed the reason the eight stallholders quit the market was due to the 30,000 yuan ($4,698) management fee. Chen family's wheaten cake boiled in meat broth (Xiaochang Chen) had already quit the market on January 4, the Beijing News reported.

"We couldn't balance our expenditure and income because of the rent increase," one of the stall managers told Beijing Business Today on Sunday, after the Jiumen Company informed them they should leave by this Friday.

"The policy protection for traditional snack brands is not the only way to extend their life, but they have to find their own new business way," Wang Ruqin, vice chairman of Beijing Time-Honored Brands Association, told the Global Times.

"The snacks are part of the market, but not a cultural element," Wang noted.

Jiumen Snack Market was opened in July 2006 and had been one of the best places to enjoy traditional Beijing snack foods. It aimed to preserve some of the city's food culture.

Although Jiumen Company, which manages the market, did not charge rent initially, stallholders had to pay 33 percent of their monthly income plus a 900-yuan fee for promotion each month when the market first opened.

But last year Jiumen imposed an additional flat fee of 10,000 yuan annually, which then increased to 30,000 yuan this year, Beijing Business Today reported on Monday.

"The price of everything is increasing, so we also have to increase the management fee," Liu said.

An Employee with a Beijing noodle stand confirmed that their management fees had increased.The renovation of Qianmen Dajie displaced many Beijing traditional snack brand stores. Twenty-three brands returned to Qianmen after the renovation, but left no more than one year later because of the high rents; around 10 brands moved to nearby Qingyunge snack shop in Dashilan Xijie but also quit one year later because of the high fees.

Some disappeared completely and some moved further out of the downtown area. This latest protest against high fees means that even more of Qianmen's former snack brands may be forced out of business.

Seven snack stall owners at Jiumen market had quarreled with Hou Jia, president of Jiumen Company and also the chairman of Beijing Traditional Snack Association, to ask him to resign or reduce the charges levied on these snack businesses in 2007, Beijing Business Today reported. Hou could not be reached for comment on Monday.

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