This Saturday marks an important date for a large portion of consumers in Australia and around the globe. January 25 is the start of the Lunar New Year, the biggest cultural occasion across Asia which is celebrated in China, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea and by their diaspora worldwide.

This year marks the Year of the Rat, and locally it will be celebrated by 1.5 million Asian-Australians. According to Nielsen, migrant Australians will account for $18.7bn (28 per cent) of the total FMCG retail channel in Australia by 2022.

Thang Ngo managing director of Identity Communications, Australia’s largest multicultural marketing agency advised brands to embrace this opportunity to connect with consumers.

“In the current challenging retail environment, retailers ignore this huge market at your own risk,” Thang Ngo, managing director of Identity Communications, told Inside FMCG.

“Lunar New Year is a huge commercial opportunity. Everyone wants to start the new year on a positive note. That means a spike in food and beverage for family celebration, new clothes for the family, cleaning the house and resolutions for a healthier lifestyle.”

According to Ngo, Telco’s have long recognised the commercial potential of this holiday, as it is a peak period for calling and messaging friends and family in Australia and ‘back home’.

Locally, Bunnings, David Jones, Myer and Woolworths are among the retailers running Lunar New Year promotions.

Woolworths has expanded its Asian product range in over 200 key stores with a focus on fresh produce, cooking essentials, gifting and snacking.

The snacks range includes Roasted Seaweed snacks, crispy Calbee Potato Chips, Kushi Fruity Jelly Drinks, Indomie Noodle Cups and Mango Candy which are among the fastest growing snacks in the Asian market.

“We’ve had such positive feedback from our customers of our Asian product range,” Woolworths head of International Foods, Serena Anson-Cope said.

“We’ve tried to provide customers with products they are familiar with from home, while ensuring we meet the freshness and quality expectations when it comes to local and international products available.”

AuMake, a retailer that targets daigou and more recently Asian tourists in Australia, kicked off a Chinese New Year promotion on Thursday.

“We are celebrating and saying thank you to our valued customers who shop with us over the Lunar New Year period with a Free Gift with any purchase,” a spokesperson for AuMake told Inside FMCG.

Those who make a purchases over $50 receive a free Herbsmart Rose Hip Milk or Thistle Milk valued at $58.

Haigh’s Chocolates is releasing its its Lunar New Year Range into all 20 of its stores for the first time this year to meet demand.

Marketing manager Fiona Krawczyk said the range proved very popular with consumers when they tested the market in selected stores nationally last year.

“It has been well received across all stores and online this year so it is set to become an annual calendar retail event for us given its popularity,” Krawczyk told Inside FMCG.

The range includes the iconic Haigh’s Milk Chocolate Murray Cod along with Milk and Dark Macadamias and premium Milk and Dark Chocolate Tablets in a traditional red and gold colour scheme.

In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus, and some brands are eager to cash in on this celebration.

Gucci has collaborated with Disney this year on their Year of the Rat collection, fronted by Mickey Mouse. Swatch is releasing limited edition rat watches in gold and red cheese casing, while Chopard is selling a Year of the Rat watch with the hefty price tag of $US24,600.

So while Australia Day may be front and centre this weekend, ask yourself if your brand could be using this opportunity to connect with Asian consumers.