Sale of luxury food gift boxes in China plummet amid graft sweep

Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - The sale of luxury food gift boxes in China fell dramatically in 2013, Chinese state media said, in another sign of the impact the ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption drive has had on consumer behavior.

A member of the China National Food Industry Association told official news agency Xinhua late on Wednesday that the sales volume of gift food products is estimated to have fallen roughly 40 percent in 2013.

The sale of traditional glutinous rice cakes was particularly hard hit, said Weng Yangyang, a senior official from the rice cake industry association.

Xinhua said a gift box of rice cakes, which are wrapped in reed leaves and eaten during the annual Dragon Boat Festival in the spring, could sell for as much as 2,888 yuan ($480).

"For those food companies that rely on selling gifts, and seek high profits, the market share has fallen even more, and times are hard," Weng said.

Luxury gift boxes containing foods such as premium alcohol, nuts, or traditional mooncakes have been a requisite part of doing business in China, and can be used as a form of soft bribery.

However, since taking over the reins of the Communist Party in November 2012 and the government in March, President Xi Jinping has vowed to crack down on corruption. A year ago, the government launched a campaign against extravagance and waste, meant to curtail gift giving and lavish banquets.

Demand for gold-encrusted mooncakes stuffed with shark's fin and other lavish pastries waned during the Mid-Autumn Festival this year in favor of less conspicuous gifts.

($1 = 6.0714 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting By Adam Rose; Editing by Paul Tait)

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