(DailyExpertNews) — When ice cream maker Adrienne Borlongan first experimented with a White Rabbit flavor, she thought it tasted like “cheap vanilla.”
A few weeks after she added it to the rotating lineup at her Los Angeles store, Wanderlust Creamery, visitors were about as good at it as she was.
But when Borlongan posted a photo of an ice cream cone wrapped in White Rabbit-branded paper, the word quickly spread on social media. First manufactured in Shanghai in the 1940s, the candy is known for its iconic red-white-blue packaging and is loved by children all over China. And as Chinese people started to emigrate around the world, their love for the white creamy candy went with them.
Shortly after Borlongan posted that photo, people from all over California drove up to Wanderlust. And then she realized she had a phenomenon on her hands.
Since then, White Rabbit has been a mainstay of Wanderlust’s ice cream series and is regularly sold out in their web shop.
But the story of a best-selling ice cream is about much more than flavor — it’s about the Chinese diaspora, the power of nostalgia, and cute, eye-catching branding.
Two cones of White Rabbit from Wanderlust Creamery.
Thanks to Wanderlust Creamery
Made in China
White Rabbit’s origins date back to a now defunct company called the ABC Company, founded in Shanghai in 1943. It was later sold to the state-owned Guan Sheng Yuan Food Group, which owns it to this day.
Originally, the candies had a picture of Mickey Mouse on their packaging – perfect for appealing to children. But when Chinese national pride boomed and it became less fashionable to use Western images, the company changed its brand name and put a cartoon rabbit on its packaging.
Enter da bai tu† In Mandarin: large white rabbit.
White Rabbit succeeded as a symbol of China that had no connection whatsoever with politics or controversy – a form of culinary diplomacy.
As for the taste? The creamy consistency comes from real milk and there is an edible piece of rice paper between the candy and the wrapper to prevent melting.
Over the years, White Rabbit has tried other flavors, including red bean and peanut. But it’s the original version that has the most nostalgia associated with it.
Some North Americans compare White Rabbit’s size, texture, and consistency to Tootsie Rolls.
DailyExpertNews/Maggie Hiufu Wong
DailyExpertNews contacted Guan Sheng Yuan, but the company declined to comment on their product.
However, the popularity of the candy is easy to see from the enthusiastic response in the market to all things White Rabbit.
The White Rabbit brand has amassed a devoted following among the newer generation that has moved beyond the various flavored candies.
When it partnered with a local beauty brand to sell White Rabbit-inspired lip balms online in 2018, the first batch of 920 products sold out in under half a minute. Another 10,000 sets of lip balm sold out within three hours when sales began the next day.
A new generation
Some of the kids who grew up on White Rabbit candies are now artists, chefs and entrepreneurs doing their part to help the brand evolve.
“It sweetens the childhood of many people.”
Growing up in Harbin in northern China, Li remembers that White Rabbit was closely associated with the festivities in China – a luxury gift for children as a special reward. But what inspires Li most is the brand’s evolving business philosophy.
“As the modern company develops, so does their business philosophy, such as collaborating with other brands, opening pop-up stores, selling merchandise, and opening their first flagship store,” says Li.
An interior shot of White Rabbit’s flagship store.
The brand’s modern identity is reflected in the layout of the first permanent flagship store, which also sells White Rabbit themed merchandise such as hand lotions, clothing and umbrellas.
Located in Shanghai’s new JKS Arts and Cultural Center, it feels more like a futuristic playground than a candy store.
Greeted by a white, 3D-printed art installation — inspired by the flow of milk — curving through the 200-square-foot space, visitors experience a whimsical sense of “falling down a rabbit hole.”
“We hope that when customers walk into the space, they will not only be impressed by the artistic installations, but also be able to feel the spirit of the brand,” says Li.
Controversy and change
But White Rabbit’s 63-year history was not purely sweet and smooth.
In 2007, a recall was issued for White Rabbit candies in the Philippines and Indonesia after trace amounts of formaldehyde were found in some packaged food products from China, including White Rabbit.
Some foods, such as fruits and milk, naturally contain a small amount of formaldehyde, but consuming large amounts can cause poisoning, which can lead to symptoms such as headaches and vomiting.
However, White Rabbit manufacturer Guan Sheng Yuan suggested that counterfeit candies may have been used in the tests instead of the authentic ones.
It has also hired an international independent testing company to inspect samples of their candies to prove no toxic substances were found before the freeze on White Rabbit Candies was lifted.
The white, wavy interior of the Shanghai White Rabbit store is inspired by the milk in the candies.
Courting a global audience
Working creatively with various brands, the candies have not only regained lost ground, but have become even more popular among the global audience in recent years, with reports claiming that the brand exports its candies to more than 40 countries across the globe. whole world.
Meanwhile, White Rabbit is regularly mentioned as a source of inspiration for food products and branded products.
Meanwhile, online portals like Etsy and Society6, where artisans can sell their products directly to consumers, offer dozens of White Rabbit pillowcases, T-shirts, and other crafts.
But the company itself does not always see these items in a positive light. There is often a gray area where companies or designers create products inspired by the famous brand, but without its endorsement.
Born in California by Filipino parents, Borlongan knows the power of food in the Asian diaspora and regularly experiments with her own favorite flavors from her childhood, such as ube (purple sweet potato).
“I believe there is such a high demand now for more than just Eurocentric appeal in flavors,” she says, citing tamarind and green tea as flavors that went from “ethnic” to mainstream in the United States over the past decade. .
While White Rabbit’s international success is organic, the rabbit logo seems to attract just as much attention these days as the real taste of the candy.