Some Chinese restaurants offer mooncake as one of their delicious menu items.
Mooncake, itself, is a special meal most often made and eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival held in China and Vietnam.
It’s a treat shared between family members, friends, and loved ones.
If you want to buy mooncake, however, you’ll quickly discover that it’s expensive at a price between $10 and $30 for four mooncakes.
Here are 10 reasons mooncake is expensive.
Why Is Mooncake So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
One of the main reasons mooncake is expensive is its packaging.
While the snacks mean something special, manufacturers have upped their game by setting them in decorative tins or other forms of packaging.
In many cases, you end up paying more for the packaging than you do the actual mooncake.
Certain brands create large and elegant displays which house the mooncakes within them.
Some might even go so far as to use gold or diamonds to decorate the displays.
Depending on how much goes into the packaging, you can expect the mooncake to cost a lot of money.
Even among those who don’t go as far as adding gold or diamonds to their packaging, there are still brands that use expensive cardboard or paper to create unique and creative packaging displays.
Some even pay artists or designers to create their displays.
These individuals usually require a sizable fee for their work.
Since the cost of making the packaging display is high, the manufacturer has to make up for those costs by placing a high price on the mooncake.
Mooncake is expensive due to the extensive and costly packaging displays that manufacturers make.
2. Brand Name
When a certain brand attaches its name to a mooncake box, then it’s going to fetch a higher price than a generic mooncake box.
For example, there are luxury brand names like Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and even Dior that get in on mooncake sales.
They’re also often the ones behind expensive and extravagant packaging displays.
All these brands deal in the luxury industry.
They make expensive products using high-quality materials that stand apart from generic brands.
While those who buy mooncakes from these brands can enjoy those high-quality materials, most of the price that they’re paying is simply the brand name.
That’s because established brands have spent time and effort to build a reputation for themselves.
When consumers want to make an informed decision about which mooncakes to buy, they’ll probably go with the brand that they recognize.
Even if they never bought a Dior product before, for example, they might choose a Dior mooncake over a generic brand because they know, through reputation, that Dior makes high-quality products.
There’s less of a risk with buying Dior products compared to buying a brand that they know nothing about.
A lot of this comes from how a brand advertises and markets itself.
If the brand releases regular ads depicting celebrities in luxury settings, then it sells the idea that its products are high-quality and luxurious and that celebrities like to enjoy them.
A brand can get away with marking up its prices simply due to its name being on a box because it knows that its customers trust that the product will be worth the price.
They’re willing to pay the higher price because it’s less risky to buy them.
Mooncake is expensive when you buy them from a big-name brand like a luxury brand.
3. Only Available Once A Year
While you may be able to find someone making mooncakes year-round, the best mooncakes are only available once a year.
That’s because, traditionally, they’re only made during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
At this point, all the mooncake bakers get their ovens ready and start pumping out mooncakes in large quantities.
Chinese restaurants have them on their menus, hotels serve them at their restaurants, and you’ll find big-name brands releasing unique and limited edition packages.
Mooncakes are perishable.
They spoil after a certain amount of time.
Because of that, it’s impossible to stockpile them.
You can only enjoy them for one part of the year.
Because of that, demand for mooncakes is high.
Anyone who loves mooncakes is going to be after them while they can get them.
That’s because they know that once the festival is over, they’re going to have to wait another year to get their mooncake fix again.
This also means that supply is low.
While there may be a lot of players looking to get in on the mooncake revenue stream, there aren’t that many.
At least, there aren’t enough to saturate the market.
That’s because, since mooncakes are only available once a year, it doesn’t make sense for an entrepreneur to make an entire business out of it.
They’d be losing money the rest of the year since they wouldn’t have a product to sell.
This means that while demand is high for mooncakes during the festival, there’s only ever a short supply.
That makes the price of them increase dramatically.
Mooncakes are expensive because they’re only available during a certain part of the year, which creates a shortage and drives up demand.
While mooncake is something the general public can enjoy during the festival, it plays a more important role for the Chinese.
Mooncake is a symbol of union and coming together.
It’s also seen as a snack for reunions.
Families share it to celebrate their reunion.
Friends share it to honor their union with one another.
It plays such an important traditional role in Chinese society, and this also impacts the price of the snack.
When something is an integral part of a tradition, people will buy it no matter what the price is.
For example, if someone wants a traditional birthday party, they might go buy a bunch of helium balloons no matter what the price might be.
During Thanksgiving, if someone wants a traditional turkey dinner, then they’ll go buy a turkey no matter the price of the turkey.
It’s important enough to the individual to have that be a part of their ceremony no matter the cost.
Because vendors can rely on people always buying mooncakes, they’re able to set prices slightly higher.
They know that their customers will likely buy from them even if their prices are slightly higher.
They know that the tradition is important enough for the customer to buy the mooncake.
This doesn’t mean that the vendor will put an extremely high price on their mooncake.
After all, competition is still a thing they need to worry about.
It does allow them to raise the price of mooncake, however, and make it a bit more expensive than some might like to pay.
Mooncake is expensive because it’s an ingrained part of the tradition that people will buy no matter the price.
5. No Available Substitutions
When it comes to holidays like Valentine’s Day, you can easily replace one gift with another.
For example, if the store is out of flowers, then you can always get chocolates or something else romantic instead for your loved one.
Even during Thanksgiving, you can replace turkey with ham.
There is also an abundance of different things for the Christmas holiday.
If they don’t have snowman decorations, then you can always look for candy canes or reindeer.
That isn’t the case with mooncakes.
There isn’t anything to replace mooncake.
It’s a staple of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Since there isn’t anything to replace it, everyone who celebrates the festival needs to get their hands on mooncake.
The demand then adds to those who don’t necessarily celebrate the festival but still enjoy mooncakes.
That creates a situation of a lot of demand for a small supply of snacks.
The lack of substitutions leaves festival goers and fans with no other choice but to buy mooncakes.
That allows the vendors to keep their prices high.
They know that they have an item that people want because they have nothing else to replace it with.
That gives them some amount of power to set the price for their mooncakes at a high amount to generate a good level of profit.
Mooncake is expensive because there isn’t any other food or traditional meal to replace it.
6. Premium Ingredients
Mooncakes are also expensive when they are made with premium ingredients.
You can find mooncakes at different prices throughout the world.
The cheapest mooncakes may cost around $3 with the more expensive ones leaning towards $50 and beyond.
Packaging and all the other reasons aside, some of these mooncakes are expensive because of the quality of ingredients used to make them.
Cheaper mooncakes are made with low-quality ingredients.
They’ll scratch the itch you have for mooncake, but they won’t leave you amazed with the experience.
It’s when you start paying for the more expensive versions that you start to taste the difference.
Some companies will spend a lot of money on sourcing the best ingredients.
Duck eggs instead of chicken eggs, for example, can make mooncakes far more expensive.
Perhaps eggs even more expensive than that make up the mooncake.
High-quality wheat and red bean paste become essential.
The problem with sourcing high-quality ingredients is that it costs money.
Farmers have to spend more money to ensure their yields are healthy and give the best possible results.
That might mean that they invest in high-quality fertilizers and pesticides to keep their plants healthy.
When they put more cost into their crops, then they have to sell them at higher prices.
Farmers also know the value of their high-quality items.
Since there’s a lot of demand for high-quality ingredients but not always a lot of supply for them, farmers can sell at slightly higher prices.
Since the bakery then takes on higher costs through buying those ingredients, they have to sell their mooncakes at higher prices.
Mooncakes are expensive when bakers and vendors use high-quality ingredients to make them.
When the holidays occur, you usually notice a slight increase in prices on items that are popular gifts.
That’s because the vendor knows that you’re likely going to pay for it regardless of its price.
A gift is a token of friendship or affection.
It’s a sacrifice made by one to show another that they care about them.
Because it’s a monetary sacrifice, people are generally more open to paying a slightly higher price for someone else than they are for themselves.
It’s expected for one to pay more for a gift for someone else.
Mooncake is a gift.
People buy them and give them to others as tokens of friendship, love, and respect.
While they also buy mooncakes for themselves, they likely spend the most money on mooncakes that they’re giving to someone else.
Vendors know this, which is why they put a higher price tag on their mooncakes.
They understand that mooncakes, at their very heart, are a gift.
They know that their customers won’t mind spending a bit more money to get the mooncake for someone they care about.
There’s a concept that the more money you spend on someone, the more it shows you care.
While this isn’t exactly true, it’s something prevalent in society nonetheless.
As such, people buy higher-priced mooncakes to impress those they’re giving them to.
Vendors can set higher prices since they know someone will buy mooncakes at that price as a gift, regardless.
Mooncakes are expensive because they’re seen as gifts.
8. Expert Bakers
While it may seem easy to make mooncake, it isn’t.
Anyone can make a simple or generic mooncake.
However, if you want the perfect mooncake, that requires a lot of experience and skill.
It takes a certain kind of understanding of baking to get the crust delicate enough to easily bite into and yet dense enough to support the rest of the weight of the cake.
It’s difficult to find that perfect density and delicacy.
Expert mooncake bakers are highly coveted among bakeries and other restaurants that serve high-quality mooncakes.
Since these vendors often spend a lot of money on their ingredients, they don’t want them to go to waste.
As such, they hire expert bakers who can make the kind of mooncake that they want.
The problem with hiring expert bakers is that they’re in short supply.
With the right kind of experience and talent, bakeries and restaurants are essentially looking for a diamond in the rough.
When they do find one, they need to offer them a generous wage.
If they don’t, another bakery or restaurant might come along and offer the baker something better.
There’s a good chance that the baker will leave and join the other bakery.
Not only will they miss out on making high-quality mooncakes, but they’ll also have stiff competition to contend with now.
As such, most bakeries and restaurants give their expert bakers good pay.
That means the cost of operating their business is higher.
Since they’re primarily brought on to make mooncakes, you can expect some of those operational costs to factor into their pricing.
Mooncakes are expensive because they require expert bakers to make premium versions.
9. Lotus Seed Expenses
While some mooncakes use wheat to make their dough, others use a more expensive ingredient called lotus seeds.
Lotus seed offers more flavor than traditional wheat which allows it to make premium mooncakes.
However, lotus seeds are very expensive to use.
That’s because the cost of farming and producing the seeds is costly.
For one, the plant has thorns that injure workers who pick them by hand.
To extract the seeds, the workers have to put them through a few different machines to separate them from the rest of the plant.
Farmers also have to contend with aquatic weeds and other pests since lotus grows in wetlands.
Since it grows alongside bamboo, the thick trunks of bamboo can also make it difficult to access the lotus plants.
Farmers may need to cut down or remove bamboo shoots to get access to their crops.
After harvesting the seeds, it goes through a few other production steps before it’s ready for sale.
Due to the complexity of its growth and harvest, a good amount of cost goes into its farming.
As a result, the seeds come at a more expensive price.
Bakeries and restaurants that want to use lotus seeds to make their mooncakes have to buy them in bulk.
They need enough seeds to make a satisfying amount of dough for the cakes.
Since they take on more expenses to make their mooncakes, the price of mooncakes increases.
Mooncakes are expensive if they use lotus seeds instead of flour.
10. Decorative Mooncakes
Mooncakes have a traditional design, look, and size.
They’re usually quite small and can fit in the palm of your hand.
Some mooncakes will have a message inscribed on the top of them.
Others will have a logo or the bakery’s name on them.
Others will hire bakers who can sketch or design intricate artwork onto the surface of the mooncake.
These decorative mooncakes are more expensive because a lot more time and effort goes into making them.
Even without art, mooncakes can become expensive if they’re a different color than the traditional brown.
If bakers put in dyes to make the mooncake pink, purple, blue, or some other color, then it’s more expensive.
That’s because it costs the bakery a bit more time and materials to make the mooncake that color.
It also means that they’re selling unique mooncakes that not every other bakery or restaurant is going to have.
When bakeries start to get creative with their mooncakes, they make them more unique and rarer.
Both those factors immediately make the product more expensive.
Mooncakes are expensive when bakeries and restaurants make them decorative.
Mooncakes are a traditional part of celebrating Mid-Autumn in China.
That time is the only time when you can find special and high-quality mooncakes for sale from small bakeries and luxury brands.
Because of its rarity and its importance in tradition, vendors can get away with setting high prices on their mooncakes.