Quan Li Rice Cracker is the work of the Jian brothers after combining old traditions with new creativity. They turned their father’s old bakery into a trendy rice cracker store that profits no less than thirty million a year.
Pops followed by the savory smell of rice crackers are a childhood memory that most people are fond of. Rice crackers, the size of your hand, fried cooked-rice comewith flavors varying from cranberry, wolfberry to chocolate, are now a must-buy when you visit Kee Lung.
It is amazing how a forty year old local bakery has turned into a famous Quan Li Rice Cracker Store that is now receiving orders not only from all over Taiwan but also from China and Japan. All praises go to the two sons of Jian Shu Quan, who have given the old store new life.
The general manager, Jian’s eldest son, Jian Zhi Yun is able to increase their sales by 20% each year after renewing the packaging of the traditional rice crackers with the concept, “Time Capsules”. Meanwhile, Jian Zhi Ru, the manager of the Quan Li factory, has overturned the traditional rice crackers with new flavor such as golden clam and red yeast rice.
The combination of two generations has rendered them with daily sales of 3000 rice crackers, and a profit of 30 million in 2012, which is 15% higher than their profit in 2011.
It is good to remember that Jian Zhi Yun used to be a life insurance business man. He returned home twenty years ago to help with the family business by renovating and transforming the old bakery into a trendy rice cracker store. “This store is the son of my parents, they would not put it at risk,” said Jian Zhi Yun dressed in a sweater and wearing glasses. For a man who started from scratch, this seemed almost unfathomable to Jian Shu Quan.
The hand-sized rice crackers that are chosen by most as gifts nowadays, believe it or not, originated from a story about a loving grandfather named Jian Shu Quan and his grandchildren. The grandchildren loved rice crackers very much, but the original 19cm rice crackers were far too large for the children, so the grandfather started making 8cm rice crackers and even changed the 500 dollars per tank of plant oil to canola oil, which was twice the price of the original oil. Then, he cut the ratio from both malt sugar and granulated sugar for the children to have a healthy snack. He never thought about selling these rice crackers because he was only making them for his grandchildren as a snack. But since he made much more than what he was supposed to, he decided to share the remaining rice crackers with his neighbors. Words soon got out about these amazing rice crackers and it quickly became a famous product that is here to stay. The rice crackers profited far more than what the bakery used to earn, and once the rice crackers started picking up, Jian Shu Quan knew that switching lanes would be easier than starting all over again.
Lin Meng Li, manager of the Living Industry Synergy Development Center that helps many old stores to transform, once said “When the old meet the new, they are bound to be in collision, but there is also growth and innovation.”
“How are you supposed to manage a store with only one product?” Jian Zhi Yun’s parents asked. Here is what they say. For people like them who used to make a living by having a diverse selection of customers, this was extremely doubtful to them. Yet, they had to give in after Jian Zhi Yun said to them, “the future is ours, we have to challenge it”
Innovating with 30 new flavors
It may be recalled that the manager of Quan Li Rice Cracker factory, Jian Zhi Ru, graduated from Providence University Tourism Department. He used what he learned and started researching and developing new flavors for the rice crackers. He tried mixing clam powder with rice crackers and added some ginger for seasoning, but extracting the sweetness and suppressing the pungency of the clam was no easy task. In fact, it took him 2 months just to develop this new flavor, but it still couldn’t hit the market without being tested by hundreds of people and undergoing some modifications. Today, other than the traditional spring onion flavored rice crackers, Quan Li has 30 other flavors which include taro, mustard, coffee beans and many others.
President Li Yi Ping of He Zhang, which specializes in selling refined rice, once said, “Quan Li has innovated from tradition and has raised rice crackers to a new level that eventually has made their place in the unique market not to mention that they also have diverse flavors to back it up. The younger generation lack the will and burden, but they have innovation and creativity; they are constantly developing surprising products that give old shops new life”.
Zian Zhi Ru noticed that the sales of rice crackers declined during summer. They would soften due to the humid temperature and caused the crackers to lose their crisp. So, he decided to solve this problem by freezing his rice crackers, and to his surprise, the rice crackers were crispier after freezing them and would not also stick to the teeth due to the low ratio of sugar in them. Now, they call them, “frozen rice crackers”.
Winning the German I.F Design Award
Packaging and marketing is the key to the success of Quan Li Rice Crackers. Jian Zhi Yun pondered over the question, “How will my package stand out in front of all the others on the same shelf?” With this in mind, he decided to change the packaging in 2009 to attract the customers’ attention at first sight. That year, every night after the shop closes at 9 o’clock he would drive to Taipei to discuss the packaging with designers. He started off with the origin of the rice crackers, the bond between grandparents and grandchildren, the family, friends, and romance as themes. He even decided to use paper cut-outs to present his design. He produced a time capsule with four different colors that can hold six pieces of rice crackers or a design with a family of four holding hands, and others with friends holding each other’s shoulder which served perfectly as a gift.
Jian Zhi Yun realized the importance of packaging after selling 60 thousand boxes and winning the “Taiwan Top Iconic Township Design Award”, hosted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Not long after, the number of orders from office clerks increased, and they even got orders from Taipei 101.
Jian Zhi Yun also made it to the wedding market as well, with a variety of gift boxes wrapped in gold ribbons that represent festivity. One in particular is a six layer case in the shape of the Chinese words “bliss in marriage”, overlapping each other in a way that it looks as if it were a firm and well-built house and inside of it were rice crackers that represented the Chinese phrase “eat rice crackers and you will marry a good man”.
Jian Zhi Yun decided not to go head to head with other major wedding cake companies but instead he chose to go into the less popular engagement cakes market. In doing this, he turned his competitors into partners, and many major wedding cake companies would even recommend Quan Li as an option when choosing engagement cakes and gifts.
Quan Li’s “bliss in marriage” won the German I.F Design Award in 2011. It also won the “Taiwanese Golden Pin Design Award in 2010 and two other awards. This fashionable design appealed to many newlyweds as acceptable and carries back the Taiwanese wedding traditions.
The older generation stood by them while the younger generation carried out their creativities and innovations. They stood alongside with them every step of the way, giving them advice and much required patience that young people lack.
Quan Li was once popularized by a blogger that wrote an article about their rice crackers and recommended them greatly. This attracted countless orders from all over Taiwan, numerous online shopping websites and shopping center counters requested partnerships with them, but Jian Zhi Yun declined them all by saying, “We wish to make Quan Li a brand of Keelung, when people think of rice crackers, they will think of Quan Li. Sales will naturally ascend when our rice crackers become exceptional.” Seeing his brother’s patience and wisdom, Jian Zhi Ru followed his brothers’ footsteps.
“The second generation is the lucky one; we have our elders’ foundation as a jumping board and we can carry on from there,” said Jian Zhi Yun. His father continuously reminds him not to forget the roots of Quan Li. He says, “never run before you stand firm on your feet.”
Manager of the Living Industry Synergy Development Center, Lin Meng Li, thus, commented, “Quan Li is all about the handmade rice crackers but it lacks the ability to produce large scales. The second generation would have to figure out how to fix this problem”.
The 40 meter square store was the soil in which the elder generation plowed, the younger generation planted the seeds and nurture them, letting their roots grow deep and giving the old shop a vibrant, new life.