When you think of ‘fresh,’ canned rice usually doesn’t come to mind – but Jiang Feng would beg to differ.
As the founder of Longmijia, a rice brand based in South China, Jiang has taken a concept that started in Japan and turned it into a budding enterprise in China’s Greater Bay Area.
“While the concept comes from Japan and their canned rice for natural disaster relief, we’re the first to turn it into a viable product on the Chinese mainland,” Jiang tell us from his company’s main office, overlooking a scenic view of the historic Pearl River in Guangzhou’s Zhujiang New Town.
Jiang Feng, Founder of Longmijia
Rice is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, with the term ‘wild rice’ (秜) dating back to an oracle bone of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE). It’s turned into China’s staple food and has become a symbol of Chinese culture.
“70% of the Chinese population [primarily] eat rice, while 30% eat mian (noodles) – those of which mainly live in China’s northwest region,” says Jiang.
Originally from Northeast China, Jiang has settled in southern Guangdong and intends to make his mark on the rice industry.
When we ask Jiang what sets Longmijia apart from the rest of the ‘rice field,’ he shares three key components: healthy, fresh and convenient.
“You can directly add water and start cooking, there’s no need to wash the rice: Simply a can of rice and a can of water make for an ideal bowl for the whole family,” Jiang tells us.
Longmijia’s rice is processed and cleaned in their recently built rice plant in Guangzhou’s Zengcheng district, where they take fresh rice from factory to restaurant or household within 18 hours. The cans are sealed with nitrogen to keep the rice from oxidizing and remain fresh for a much longer duration.
In addition, Longmijia says this style of packaging will have a positive impact on the environment by avoiding vacuum-sealed plastic wrapping and using recyclable materials.
The result has been surprisingly positive for Longmijia, as the company sold 30 million cans in its first three years.
At the end of 2019, the company secured RMB10 million in a series A1 round of financing, which Longmijia plans to use on building up their supply chain management system, brand marketing and customer expansion, among others.
As we discover during our visit to Longmijia’s Guangzhou office, the company is all about branding.
Dubbed the ‘Internet famous rice’ (網紅大米), Longmijia has continued to innovate on multiple levels. Starting with product packaging, the company spends a considerable amount of resources turning a can of rice into an artistic expression, which helps it stand out among other products on supermarket shelves.
The company has been increasingly involved with livestreaming, even designating a full section of their sprawling office to livestream with notable influencers.
Positioned as a medium-to-high-end rice brand, Longmijia is utilizing new media to further their brand messaging to appeal to a growing segment of young people and families with higher wages.
And it’s paid off, with revenue surpassing RMB600 million in 2019, one million customers and a 30% customer return rate.
While Longmijia appears to be on the right trajectory in China, Jiang is quick to point out the obstacles facing his company for further expansion. “The Chinese market is too big, and America’s rice industry is so developed,” he notes while adding that the two countries have plenty to gain from closer cooperation amid the ongoing trade war.
Having spent time touring rice plants in the US and inviting overseas guests to Guangzhou for industry conferences, Jiang views both the trade war and restricted travel due to COVID-19 as impediments to growth.
But while it’s not clear when those barriers will fold, Longmijia continues to promote their product to a massive market in China.
“You can buy our cans anywhere, Tmall, Taobao, JD, as well as supermarkets in Guangdong from Ole to Hema,” says Zoe Zhang, director of sales and marketing at Longmijia.
The company’s product scope is also set to expand, as they partner up with different local companies to offer cured meats and other goods that match perfectly with a tasty bed of rice.
[Images via Longmijia]