Though Vietnamese mooncake manufacturers and distributors are slashing prices in order to attract shoppers, reports show poor sales and low demand ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Full Moon Festival, falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month and is considered an important cultural event for many Southeast Asian countries.
Traditionally, mooncakes -- a round- or square-shaped pastry with a wheat-based crust and sweet or savory fillings -- are considered a steadfast holiday treat.
This year's fest is due on September 29.
But the typical sky-high mooncake sales that mark the approach of the Mid-Autumn Festival are in a slump, even amongst well-known brands such as Kinh Do, Dong Khanh, and Nhu Lan.
According to industry insiders, the slump is a result of a combination of inflation and the growing popularity of alternative cakes.
Buying power from both businesses and individuals is decreasing more significantly than anticipated, according to the brand names mentioned above.
Declining retail market
Despite the 'Buy 1 Get 1 Free' sign at a mooncake stall on Dien Bien Phu Street, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, passers-by opted to remain passers-by, rather than customers.
The reason, many would-be customers said, was that despite discounts and sales, the mooncakes were simply unaffordable.
At this particular stall, a single box of four mooncakes cost VND320,000 (US$13.24) after all discounts.
Kinh Do, a popular local mooncake stall on Phan Dang Luu Street in Phu Nhuan District, has also been experiencing similar sluggish sales since early August.
According to Dang Huynh Giao, the stall owner, sales are even worse than they were during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A few kilometers away at the Dan Chu Roundabout, stalls offering 'Buy 1 Get 1 Free' sales and selling mooncakes for VND40,000-100,000 ($1.66-4.14) were struggling to make sales.
The number of consumers purchasing mooncakes at the stall was down 20-25 percent compared to previous years, according to Nguyen Minh Thien, a salesman.
New market entrant Bao Ngoc had high hopes for this season, but dreams of hitting big sales numbers in its first year in the market were shattered when the company’s stalls reported dismal figures and nearly unmarketable products.
Economic difficulties and rising prices are forcing people to tighten their belts, a Bao Ngoc stall owner said.
Promotions fall short
Corporations typically make up a big portion of annual mooncake sales, with many businesses purchasing large quantities as gifts for their employees.
Despite producers slashing their prices by 50 percent to attract these businesses, there has been relatively little interest, said Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy, director of Dong Khanh Food Industrial Company in southern Long An Province.
According to Kao Huy Minh, a representative of ABC Bakery, demand from businesses has fallen 40-45 percent year on year.
Bibica Corporation, another mooncake producer, has made an effort to diversify offerings among different price segments and alter designs and packaging in order to attract agencies, large businesses, and foreign-invested enterprises, said general director Nguyen Quoc Hoang, whose company has only sold about 65 percent of the season's target.
“Giving mooncakes to laborers is a meaningful activity done by organizations each year, but businesses are more worried about how they can survive the current economic situation,” said Nguyen Tan Dinh, a garment business owner in Ho Chi Minh City.