How Shanghai’s White Rabbit candy became a globally beloved snack

How Shanghai’s White Rabbit candy became a globally beloved snack

(CNN) — When ice product maker Adrienne Borlongan first experimented with a White Rabbit flavor, she assumed it tasted like “cheap vanilla.”

A few weeks immediately after introducing it to the rotating lineup at her Los Angeles store, Wanderlust Creamery, visitors have been about as meh on it as she was.

But when Borlongan posted a photograph of an ice product cone wrapped in White Rabbit-branded paper, word quickly distribute on social media. The candy, first created in Shanghai in the 1940s, is recognized for its iconic crimson-white-and-blue packaging and beloved by young children all more than China. And when Chinese people began emigrating all in excess of the world, their really like for the white, creamy sweet went with them.

Quickly following Borlongan posted that photograph, people were driving to Wanderlust from all about California. And that’s when she realized she experienced a phenomenon on her palms.

Since then, White Rabbit has been a mainstay of Wanderlust’s ice product lineup and is on a regular basis sold out in their webshop.

But the story of a bestselling ice cream is about way more than flavor — it is really about the Chinese diaspora, the electrical power of nostalgia, and lovely, eye-catching branding.

Two cones of White Rabbit from Wanderlust Creamery.

Courtesy Wanderlust Creamery

Manufactured in China

White Rabbit’s origins date back again to a now-defunct organization called the ABC Firm, started in Shanghai in 1943. It was later offered to the point out-owned Guan Sheng Yuan Food Group, which owns it to this day.

At first, the candies had a picture of Mickey Mouse on their wrappers — great for captivating to little ones. But as Chinese countrywide delight soared and it became significantly less modern to use Western images, the firm rebranded and place a cartoon rabbit on the packaging instead.

Enter da bai tu. In Mandarin: significant white rabbit.

The combine of colourful, simple-to-location wrappers and the sweet milky taste proved a winner. Little ones from Beijing to Hong Kong grew up on the sweets, and it also became a nationwide symbol of the place — most famously, US President Richard Nixon was given some when he created his historic pay a visit to to China in 1972.

White Rabbit succeeded as a symbol of China that failed to have any connections to politics or controversy — a type of culinary diplomacy.

As for the flavor? The creamy regularity will come from true milk, and you can find an edible piece of rice paper between the candy and the wrapper to avoid melting.

Above the a long time, White Rabbit tried using out other flavors, which includes pink bean and peanut. But it really is the initial edition that has the most nostalgia related to it.

Some North Americans compare White Rabbit's size, texture and consistency to that of Tootsie Rolls.

Some North Us citizens evaluate White Rabbit’s measurement, texture and consistency to that of Tootsie Rolls.

CNN/Maggie Hiufu Wong

CNN attained out to Guan Sheng Yuan but the business wouldn’t offer a comment about their item.

However the candy’s popularity can be quickly viewed in the enthusiastic reaction in the current market in the direction of all matters White Rabbit.

The White Rabbit model has amassed a devoted subsequent amongst the newer technology that has moved past its several flavored candies.

When it teamed up with a nearby beauty model to offer White Rabbit-motivated lip balms on the internet in 2018, the 1st batch of 920 merchandise sold out in 50 percent a moment. An additional 10,000 sets of lip balm bought out in three hrs when revenue opened the future working day.

A new era

Some of the kids who grew up snacking on White Rabbit candies are now artists, chefs and business owners performing their element to evolve the manufacturer.

“I did (expand up with White Rabbit). Throughout my childhood the wide variety of sweet was not quite abundant, the White Rabbit sweet was pretty preferred, even a very little extravagant,” suggests Li Xiang, founder of X+ Residing and main designer of the not long ago opened White Rabbit Flagship retail outlet in Shanghai.

“It sweetened the childhood of many folks.”

Escalating up in Harbin in northern China, Li remembers White Rabbit as remaining carefully joined with festivities in China — a luxurious reward for small children as a unique reward. But what evokes Li the most is the brand’s evolving small business philosophy.

“As the modern-day business enterprise develops, their enterprise philosophy also evolves, these as collaborating with other manufacturers, opening pop-up suppliers, promoting products and opening their very first flagship shop,” suggests Li.

An interior shot of the White Rabbit flagship store.

An inside shot of the White Rabbit flagship retailer.

Shao Feng

The brand’s modern day identification is mirrored in the decor of its first long term flagship keep, which also sells White Rabbit-themed merchandise like hand lotions, clothing and umbrellas.

Positioned in Shanghai’s new JKS Arts and Cultural Center, it feels more like a futuristic playground than a candy shop.

Greeted by a white, 3-D printed art installation — impressed by the flow of milk — that curves via the 200-sq.-meter room, visitors working experience a whimsical emotion of “slipping down a rabbit gap.”

“We hope when prospects stroll into the area, they are not only amazed by the creative installations, but can also feel the spirit of the brand,” states Li.

Controversy and change

But White Rabbit’s 63 several years of heritage haven’t been purely sweet and clean.

In 2007, a recall get was issued on White Rabbit candies in the Philippines and Indonesia when traces of formaldehyde had been detected in some packaged foods products and solutions from China, which includes White Rabbit.

Some meals, like fruits and milk, have a smaller amount of formaldehyde in a natural way but consuming large quantities might bring about poisoning, top to indications like head aches and vomiting.

White Rabbit company Guan Sheng Yuan, having said that, suggested that the exams may possibly have utilized counterfeit candies as an alternative of the reliable ones.

It also hired an international impartial tests firm to examine samples of their candies to prove that no harmful substances were being located in advance of the freeze on White Rabbit Candies was lifted.

The white, wavy interior of the Shanghai White Rabbit store was inspired by the milk in the candies.

The white, wavy inside of the Shanghai White Rabbit retail outlet was inspired by the milk in the candies.

Shao Feng

Courting world audiences

By collaborating creatively with different makes, the candies have not only regained missing floor but have turn into even extra popular amongst global audiences in latest many years, with experiences boasting the model exports its candies to much more than 40 international locations all over the planet.

Meanwhile, White Rabbit is often credited as an inspiration for food goods and branded products.

In Hong Kong by itself, there are numerous iterations of White Rabbit goodies. Baked Indulgence, a baked products shop run by two sisters, has a White Rabbit-esque cookie for sale, and an ice product stand close to the chaotic Central Piers has a popular White Rabbit taste.
Hip New York City keep Chop Suey Club sells socks with the White Rabbit logo on them, while dad and mom can move their fandom on to the subsequent era with Wee Bean’s sweet-printed onesie.

Meanwhile, online portals like Etsy and Culture6, in which artisans can offer their items straight to shoppers, attribute dozens of White Rabbit pillowcases, T-shirts and other crafts.

But the firm alone won’t always look at these merchandise in a beneficial gentle. You will find often a grey spot in which businesses or designers build products and solutions influenced by the famed model but without its endorsement.

In 2021, Bright Dairy & Meals Co — which experienced the official legal rights to make White Rabbit dairy items — filed a lawsuit in opposition to two companies in China for generating an unlicensed version of White Rabbit-flavored milk and milk tea powder. Vivid Dairy & Foodstuff Co won the circumstance and gained a payment of $39,000.
There are also debates bordering Wanderlust’s White Rabbit ice cream.
Whilst Guan Sheng Yuan stated that the ice cream store didn’t get the legal rights to promote White Rabbit ice cream with its branding, it was also pointed out on nearby news web-sites that the ice cream shop serves White Rabbit ice product in a basic cone in the retail outlet, not like the picture that Borlongan shared on the web.
As a supervisor at Vibrant Dairy & Foods Co said in an job interview with community media, “(Seeing) these time-honored Shanghainese brand names usually turn into trending goods overseas has impressed us to go world wide a lot quicker.”

Borlongan, who was raised in California by Filipino mother and father, is aware of the power of food in the Asian diaspora and frequently experiments with her have favored childhood flavors like ube (purple sweet potato).

“I believe that that there is these a big demand from customers now for far more than just Eurocentric appeal in flavors,” she says, citing tamarind and inexperienced tea as flavors that went from getting “ethnic” to mainstream in the United States in the past ten years.

When White Rabbit’s global results has been natural, these days the bunny emblem appears to be commanding just as a lot awareness as the candy’s genuine flavor.