A slice of success for Jiangxi's bakery entrepreneurs

(Xinhua) 08:48, September 11, 2023

NANCHANG, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Nineteen years ago, Bao Caisheng made a bold trip to Beijing with just over 100,000 yuan (about 13,860 U.S. dollars) he had scraped together, betting everything on his baking skills.

He set up business in the national capital, selling a few baked goods of his own creation. Before long, his delicious pastries had drawn a loyal following, allowing him to set up several profitable bakery shops.

Now the "Bao's Pastry" chain has expanded to over 100 stores, wooing foodies in cities from Shenzhen to Shanghai and beyond. So popular are the offerings -- such as pork floss cakes -- that long queues often form outside the door.

Bao's story of success can be put down in part to his personal culinary skills and his business savvy. However, it is also linked to his origins in a part of China known as a center of the bakery business, with numerous local companies specializing in bread, cakes and pastries.

Bao hails from Zixi, a lesser-known mountainous county in east China's Jiangxi Province. Though not a major wheat-growing area, Zixi has spawned numerous baked-goods entrepreneurs, including over 20 billionaires and 160 multimillionaires.

Nestled in the western edge of the Wuyi Mountains, Zixi has a permanent resident population of just 100,000. Nearly half are engaged in the baking industry.

Zixi's love affair with baking started in the late 1980s, when two military veterans named Zhang Xiewang and Hong Tao started a pastry business in the neighboring city of Yingtan. Having successfully founded their business, they then shared their baking skills with fellow villagers free of charge.

Among those to benefit was Qiu Senmao, who learned the necessary skills and then started his own business. Once he was on his feet, he also shared his good fortune with others.

"At that time, the villagers were eager to live a good life, and we all volunteered to teach each other the craft," said Qiu.

Those willing to learn were offered free meals and beds, and apprentices were lent start-up funds to establish their own businesses, according to Qiu.

Several decades on, the residents of Zixi get 60 percent of their net income from the baking industry. An army of 40,000 people have created over 60 bakery brands, with stores in more than 1,000 cities and towns across China. The annual output of their business activity is nearly 30 billion yuan.

In Yangfang Village, 90 percent of the 160 households are engaged in the baking business.

"Yet making bread is not a golden key to success. Only about 20 percent are able to make a profit in the beginning," said Zhong Qiwen, Party chief of the village.

Zixi's cluster of bakery businesses has thrived due to strong and persistent support from the local government. From "bread loans" to technical and legal support, local authorities have played an active role in constantly promoting the upgrading of the industry.

In 2001, a bread industry association was established in Zixi, the first of its kind in the country, providing bread producers with comprehensive legal, financial and technical assistance.

In recent years, Zixi bread has also traveled overseas to various countries, including France, Russia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia.

Zeng Nan, a Zixi native, runs a Western-style pastry training school in the northern French city of Amiens. "Since its establishment in 2018, our school has welcomed more than 70 European trainees every year," he said.

In its 2022 government work report, Zixi listed bread-making as the top industry. The construction of a bread-and-food industrial town is currently underway. With a planned area of 200 hectares, the industrial town is intended to provide a complete industrial chain covering bread production, processing and technical training.

The first phase of the project was completed and put into operation in 2018, attracting many leading baked-goods businesses, such as Jiangsu Feishi Group Co., Ltd., a major meat floss manufacturer.

"We plan to establish more small-scale bakeries run by Zixi people around the country, and pool resources to improve the competitive edge of Zixi bread," said Zheng Changze, Zixi's deputy county chief.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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