CHANGSHA, May 31 (Xinhua) -- With the help of two classmates, Adil Memettur, a young Uygur man, has turned a traditional Xinjiang cake into a booming online business with plans for a brick-and-mortar store.
Adil, 23, a senior at Changsha University of Science and Technology in central China's Hunan Province, started selling the popular Xinjiang snack "qiegao," literally "cut cake," on Taobao.com, China's most popular online shopping platform with help from classmates Jiang Jinya and Jiang Chunyang, both of Han ethnicity.
Qiegao, also called "marentang" in Xinjiang, is a dense nougat made from nuts, candied fruits, and malt syrup. It is usually shaped into large, thick sheets and sold on the back of motorized tricycles by Uygurs.
But the snack got a bad name after a few vendors started cutting off a chunk of the cake, which ended up costing much more than customers expected and led to online controversy in 2012.
Adil thought the reputation of his hometown confection could be restored if he started making and selling marentang at a high quality and reasonable price. His classmates supported the idea.
Adil was born into a family in Kashgar City in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The city has a marentang-making tradition, and Adil learned the art of making the snack growing up.
His business has also won the support of his parents, who mail fresh marentang ingredients to Changsha, where the three college entrepreneurs initially made the confections in a rented room.
They have received over 6,000 online orders with daily sales volume exceeding 100,000 yuan (16,010 U.S. dollars) after the treat appeared in the recent hit documentary "A Bite of China II." They even hired extra staff members to keep up with the surging demand.
Adil's two partners have also learned how to make marentang. "Our friends, classmates and online customers are full of praise after tasting our products," said Jiang Chunyang.
To attract more young customers, their store has rolled out a customization service to make marentang in special shapes and different sizes. A heart-shaped marentang packed in a pink box has become a popular gift for lovers.
After successful online sales, Adil and his two partners have started to plan for a physical store. Their dream has gained support from the local government, which on Tuesday offered them an 800-square-meter workshop in an industrial park.
Adil wants to own a chain of stores and a brand in the future. He hopes the marentang, once an important source of food for caravans on the Silk Road, can one day be sold in more places and offer an additional snack choice for customers.