Durian has seen a marked increase in popularity in China’s fruit market, with many Chinese consumers warming to the unique taste of this so-called ‘king of fruit’. Between April 2014 and March 2017, durian flavoured yogurt launches were rare, with launch frequency picking up after April 2016, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

60% of Chinese consumers say they are willing to pay more for better product performance

Premium Malaysian durian varieties, such as Musang King and D24, are popular in China. Musang King, a chain restaurant, specializes in the production of various desserts using the Musang King variety of durian. Demand for such premium varieties could be attributed to the current trend for ‘trading up’ among Chinese consumers. In fact, 60% of consumers claim that they are willing to pay more for better product performance (eg taste better), according to Mintel’s The Chinese Consumer 2017 report. The growing popularity of Malaysian durian varieties in particular have meant that Malaysia has increased the export allocation of its domestic durian production to China to 75%.

According to Mintel’s Consumer Snacking Trends China 2017 report, two in three consumers claim to have eaten more fresh fruits and vegetables in the six months to November 2016. New fruits and fruit-based launches, including those with durian, can attract the attention of a consumer base whose concerns for eating healthily continue to grow.

Opportunities for durian in dessert

Chinese consumers are open to trying different foods incorporating durian fruit. Last spring, Pizza Hut launched its limited-edition durian pizza, which turned out to be far more popular than predicted. In fact, that the brand chose to make it available again during the following summer.

While durian is no stranger to a wide range of food categories, either being used as flavouring or filling, the bakery market presents opportunity. For example, durian’s use as flavouring in the bakery market increased from 0.82% between June 2014 and May 2015 to 1.34% between June 2016 and May 2017.

To cater to consumers’ fondness for durian, famed ready-meal manufacturer Sanquan combined durian with a traditional Chinese recipe, launching durian-filled rice balls in February 2017. Another traditional food type that has embraced durian is mooncake, which could tap into durian’s popularity if the fruit was incorporated as a flavouring or filling.

Loris Li is a Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel and is based in the Shanghai office. Prior to joining Mintel, she worked in the wine and spirits industry for over six years, both in the US and in China.

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