To celebrate 35 years of operating in China, fast-food chain KFC commissioned a series of cute figurines from the wildly popular local toy maker Pop Mart.
The tiny figures – wide-eyed sprites styled as popular food items – were to be gifted to anyone who bought a Rmb99 ($15.6) family meal.
But the problem was that the “Dimoo” dolls were too popular, leading collectors to buy the meals simply as a way of acquiring the limited-edition items.
The unwanted food was then discarded, prompting the China Consumer Association (CAA) to remind KFC of an anti-wastage law enacted in April last year.
The law “clearly requires catering companies to consciously resist food waste, remind consumers to consume in moderation, and take measures to prevent consumer waste, when necessary,” it said in a statement.
The CAA went on to accuse KFC of encouraging “irrational and excessive” purchases by giving the dolls away in so-called “blind boxes” – meaning that the recipients don’t know which of the six models they are getting till they open the box.
Pop Mart is, by some estimates, China’s most popular toy brand (see WiC468 for our first mention of the company). Founded by 34 year-old advertising graduate Wang Ning in 2010, the company has captured about 8.5% of China’s toy market and makes close to a billion dollars in revenues a year.
The key to its success: it bills its products as ‘art toys’ and the brand enjoys huge popularity among urban women aged 18-35.
Pop Mart – which also sells many of its products in blind boxes – has 200 shops around the world with a new store opening in London this month. It also operates a network of about 1,000 roboshops or vending machines that sell blind boxes too.
The company makes greater quantities of some items in the gift boxes than others to make it harder to collect a full set of a particular series. With the KFC campaign there was only a one in 72 chance of receiving the rarest of the set, for instance, prompting one fan to spend over a Rmb10,000 on more than 100 family meals in the hope of securing all six models.
The six items included a blue-eyed, blonde-haired cherub dressed as a chicken burger, a baby popping out of an ice-cream sundae and a miniature version of Colonel Sanders – KFC’s founder.
After the CAA backlash the chain ended the promotion early, saying it had run out of the mini-dolls.
This is not the first time a producer has fallen foul of China’s anti-waste law: in April last year local milk producer Mengniu was heavily criticised after teaming up with the talent show Youth With You 3. As part of the arrangements for voting for their favourite acts, fans had to buy cartons of Mengniu milk, which had unique QR codes inside their caps. This led to many people buying unwanted milk and pouring it away. The media soon picked up on the trend, which was soon condemned by the authorities. The show was subsequently cancelled as a result.
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