HEFEI, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- It's late autumn, and a herbal tea company in the city of Bozhou, Anhui Province, east China, is brewing up a storm.
In a 20,000-square-meter facility, eight production lines are churning out nearly 20,000 boxes of herbal tea per day to meet market demand, with most sold across the country via e-commerce platforms.
"Autumn and winter are peak seasons for us as demand for hot herbal tea increases during this period," said Teng Guangyou, owner of Anhui Shengshi Biotechnology Co., Ltd.
Teng is among many locals to benefit from Bozhou's booming herbal tea industry. Dubbed the capital of the Chinese medicinal herb industry, Bozhou is home to the country's biggest medicinal herbs market and distribution center, putting it in a unique position to develop the herbal tea industry.
Official data shows that Bozhou's annual production value of herbal tea has reached nearly 10 billion yuan (about 1.4 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for about 70 percent of China's herbal tea industry.
"Since ancient times, Bozhou has planted chrysanthemums, white peonies and other raw materials used in herbal tea. Since the first herbal tea product was put on the market in 1995, Bozhou's herbal tea industry has developed at an alarming pace," said Zhang Guofang, president of the Bozhou Herbal Tea Industry Promotion Association.
According to Zhang, the city now has more than 1,000 herbal tea enterprises, which employ nearly 50,000 people.
Teng, 29, is one of many "returnees," a term used to describe Bozhou natives who, attracted by the fast-growing herbal tea industry, decided to return to their roots to seek out opportunities closer to home. In his case, just one year after graduating from college in 2018, Teng started a herbal tea company with his friends.
"At first, we sold herbal tea for other companies on e-commerce platforms. Later, as market demand increased, we established our own production lines to produce our products," said Teng.
Now Teng's company has nearly 150 herbal tea products, with the output value exceeding 200 million yuan in 2022. Many of the products have been exported to markets including Europe and Southeast Asia.
According to Teng, as people's demand for healthcare increases, there is a growing demand for herbal tea products.
Data showed that the courier service in Bozhou sent out 213 million parcels containing herbal tea products in 2022, rising sharply from 35 million parcels in 2018. In the first half of this year, 130 million parcels were dispatched, up 36 percent year on year.
The customer base has shifted, too, expanding from middle-aged and elderly buyers to include a growing number of younger people. In response, local herbal tea enterprises are actively exploring ways to cater to the needs of this new consumer group.
"We have innovated our products from formula and packaging to drinking mode. For example, we developed products targeting those who usually stay up late," said Huai Zishuai, owner of Anhui Cunzhen Yishou Pharmaceutical Technology Co., Ltd., adding that they have also designed their brand IP targeting young consumers.
Since its establishment, Huai's enterprise has been dedicated to developing its brand and many of the products sell very well online. The enterprise's e-commerce sales volume in 2022 reached nearly 50 million yuan.
To boost the herbal tea industry, Bozhou provides tax incentives and training seminars for enterprises and actively builds marketing platforms to help nurture more influential and independent brands.
"We are mapping out a five-year plan for the herbal tea industry," Zhang said. "By improving the product standard system, cooperating with scientific research institutions, and cultivating talents, we hope to promote healthier and more sustainable development of the industry."