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A random Chinese company selling food-grade glycine is Gen Z's newest TikTok obsession

Hannah Getahun   

A random Chinese company selling food-grade glycine is Gen Z's newest TikTok obsession
  • Gen Z is enamored with an amino acid called glycine.
  • That's because a glycine company in China has gone viral on TikTok for its unique ads.

You may never have thought of or heard about the food additive glycine, but it's all Gen Z can talk about on TikTok.

That's because a glycine manufacturing company in China called Donghua Jinlong Chemical has shown up in people's For You feeds thanks to its high-energy videos advertising the mundane compound — a tiny molecule found in foods like plain-old tofu — and people cannot look away.

Glycine is an amino acid produced by the human body and naturally occurs in some foods. Synthetic versions can also be added to food products and supplements. Research published by the National Library of Medicine shows some evidence that glycine may have various health benefits, like treating gastrointestinal issues and preventing liver damage.

This often-overlooked additive began grabbing people's attention after a TikTok page that appears to be associated with Donghua Jinlong advertised the product and the company's "well-established brand."

"Unlock Donghua Jinlong's food grade glycine in 2024," a voiceover proudly declares in the March video as photos of a factory sweep through: "Suitable as a flavor enhancer, sweetener, and nutritional supplement. Also used in pickles, sweet sauces, soy sauce, vinegar, and juices to improve taste."

The video touched Gen Z, and glycine has become an absurdist joke among the generation. The TikTok page's most popular video has over half a million views, and users are going to great lengths to declare their love for industrial food-grade glycine — posting fake infomercials, creating parodies mimicking the company's own TikTok videos, and producing EDM tracks dedicated to glycine.

There's even a term for fans of the product: glycine girlies.

"The children yearn for the glycine," one comment said in response to the techno glycine song.

And at least one US company has waded into the meme.

In response to the ad for Donghua Jinlong's food-grade glycine, the official Smarties candy page pledged its support: "no bc if i was going to use glycine this is who i would get it from," it wrote in a comment.

According to tech journalist Louise Matsakis, who first reported on the meme, the company appears confused by the attention. In response to a request from one user for Donghua Jinlong to start selling hoodies, the company page simply replied with "???"

A February report from the firm Research and Markets predicted that the amino acids industry will grow from $26.6 billion in 2023 to $39.4 billion by 2028.

Amino acids are "experiencing a surge, primarily fueled by their growing incorporation in functional foods, dietary supplements, and pharmaceuticals amidst heightened demand for wellness products," the research firm said in a press release.

It's unclear if the glycine girlies will help with the growth of this industry. But as long as there's no TikTok ban, get ready for Hot Glycine Girl summer.

Donghua Jinlong Chemical did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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