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Bobbie Bears

A lavender-stuffed teddy bear has "tapped the cultural psyche of 30-year-old Chinese ladies," reports Dinny McMahon in The Wall Street Journal (4/10/14). The Bobbie Bear, as it is known, is essential a by-product of Bridestowe Lavender Estate, a "lavender farm" in a "remote corner of Australia. In 2007, the farm’s owner, Robert Ravens, "started making teddy bears as a way to use the shed-loads of dried lavender that came with the farm" and then began "selling the bears to market the farm for tourism."

Demand, "almost solely from China," is so great that Robert has had to stop "shipping overseas," no longer takes orders online and imposes a quota of one bear per farm visitor. Bridestowe "stuffed 30,000 bears last year — up from 3,500 in 2011 and 7,500 in 2012 — and expects to double production this year, using a full ton of lavender for stuffing, rather than for aromatic oils, its original use … The annual number of visitors" to his farm, meanwhile, "has nearly tripled in six years to 60,000 in 2013."

The Chinese mania for Bobbie Bears is attributed to a "desire for peace of mind after recurring food and product safety scandals at home." "Anything natural from somewhere with blue skies and clean air and water is dreamy for Chinese consumers," says Chen Huan of Shanghai, who "bought four bears — three as gifts — from a friend." Some apparently microwave the bears and use them as a heat pack. Knock-offs are a problem, but Robert says it’s easy to identify fakes, which he says lack a certain "rich and deep" aroma.