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Neck and neck

Updated: 2013-01-23 10:23
By Wang Ru ( China Daily)

Neck and neck

At Jingwu Road, eager customers wait as their orders of duck necks are chopped into bite-sized portions. Sun Xinming / For China Daily

Other entrepreneurs found different market entry points.

Wang Songlin earned bundles selling premixed spice bags to vendors across the country.

Tu Guohua started a company selling vacuum-sealed bags and gift boxes of duck necks in supermarkets nationwide.

Neck and neck

Brixton's Beijing jiaozi 

But Tang, the purported inventor of spicy duck necks, lost his fortune by gambling away millions in Macao, Wuhan media reported.

Duck neck producers faced a trademark dispute in 2007, when they were sued by a food company that claimed to have registered "Jingwu" as a trademark in 1997.

In the 1920s, Jingwu Road was named after a martial-arts club created by Huo Yuanjia, who had made his name in Tianjin municipality. A town in Tianjin is also named "Jingwu".

"In 1997, nobody realized 'Jingwu' would become a priceless trademark," says Wu, who adds he was among the first to register a trademark containing the name in 2003.

The suit ended in March 2011 - after Jingwu Road's demolition. The court ruled that Wuhan's duck neck companies were allowed to use "Jingwu" in their trademarks. About 30 enterprises currently use the word in their branding.

About 125 million duck necks are sold every year in Hubei - lined up, they'd stretch about halfway around the planet - according to the Jingwu Duck Neck Association, which was founded in 2007.

"Jingwu duck necks are no longer small businesses but are, rather, an important industry for Wuhan that generates about 6 billion yuan in annual revenues," the association's general secretary Liu Shiping says.

Jingwu Road's duck neck shops were relocated to a street about 300 meters away after the demolition.

Many outlets couldn't afford the higher rents, leaving 18 stores to reinvigorate Jingwu's legacy.

Wu opened three new shops on the street.

Neck and neck

Calm the soul, clear the broth

"I could open more but believe I should leave space for others who helped create this legacy over the past two decades," Wu says.

He spent 150,000 yuan for a large advertisement on the side of a residential building.

But, his business shrank by 30 percent in 2012, he says. "The influence and effect of the relocation is inevitable," he explains.

But, the duck neck tycoon has bought 3.3 hectares of land to expand his factory this year.

"I want to make my company a century-old brand," he says.

The original Jingwu site is slated to become a multifunctional high-end community.

"I think that wherever spicy duck necks are, that's where Jingwu Road is," Wu says. It is after all, a name to remember.

Contact the writer at wangru@chinadaily.com.cn.

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