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KFC’s Blind Box Meals Are Making China Blind

KFC’s blind box meals are extremely popular in China, but for the wrong reasons. According to reports, a Chinese consumer rights group, CCA (China Consumers Association), has urged the public to boycott this meal promotion because it encouraged food wastage. Last week, the chicken shop collaborated with a leading mystery box maker in China, Pop Mart, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of its first outlet in China near the Great Wall. They offered a limited edition of Dimoo dolls when consumers purchased certain box meals from KFC. These toys have a big head, tiny body, huge eyes, and wear food items as aesthetics. Consumers are so attracted to these dolls that they don’t mind buying the box meal, especially for them and throwing away the food.

Blind Box Meals Send Consumers into Buying Frenzy

When Chinese consumers learned about the offer, they rushed to buy these blind box meals to get those dolls. The toys triggered “irrational and excessive” consumer behaviour among Chinese people. The state-affiliated CCA said that KFC used trendy taglines like “limited-edition” and “blind box” to induce such behaviour in consumers.

KFC reportedly provided more than 260,000 sets of these toys to outlets across China. A customer has to buy a box meal worth 15.5 USD to get the doll. They were trying to collect all 7 available styles of a character named Dimoo. Sometimes the doll is dressed as KFC food items and sometimes the founder Colonel Saunders. Reportedly, one customer spent more than 1,500 USD on more than 100 meals at once to get the entire set.

Customers like these posted their collection on Chinese social media, Weibo, which attracted more people to those boxes.

State Campaign against Food Wastage

China’s President Xi Jinping launched an aggressive campaign against food wastage in 2020. The “Clean Plate Campaign” strengthened efforts to reduce food wastage, which increased dramatically since the start of pandemic. Authorities forced the restaurants to implement a system where people can order one dish less than the total number of diners. So, if there are 10 diners, they must order 9 dishes. However, it has been facing criticism because the Chinese believe ordering extra food than the total number of guests is polite.

The problem is prevalent in China long before the pandemic. In 2013, it launched the “Empty Plate Campaign” that targeted government officials for having grand feasts even for small occasions that resulted in food wastage. In 2015, WWF China reported that the country had wasted 17 to 18 million tons of food in one year.

The state CCTV agency also noted some live streamers who recorded themselves binge-eating large amounts of food and then throwing up later because of indigestion.

Blind box meals by KFC also push impulsive consumption rather than the necessary one, which is why the chicken shop faces boycott threats. However, it is doubtful that Chinese people would boycott KFC as they cannot resist collecting the strange dolls.

What is the Charm Behind these Boxes?

Many brands have used the idea of a “blind box” to intrigue impulsive Chinese customers. According to reports, their purchasing behaviour is driven mainly by social media. More than 70% of the Chinese youth (18-22) purchase through social media influence. These mystery boxes are social because it allows consumers to compare what they found and share their excitement on social media.

In 2019, the total sale of these boxes was around 1.14 billion USD, and market watchers predicted it to reach 4.7 billion USD by 2024. Pop Mart, which provides Dimoo dolls for KFC blind box meals, is the market leader in this sector. According to statistics from 2020, its sales reached 90 million USD after selling around 50 million toys. And, now, after collab with KFC, it is not showing any signs of slowing down.

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The purpose of my writing is to record the same voices that are repressed by manual systems.
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