When we last spoke to Bite Society Founder Simon Newstead, the firm had just launched its first products, a vegan crispy rice chocolate ball and a vegan crispy rice chocolate bar, in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Back then, Newstead had mentioned that they were looking at the China market, which they have now entered, but with a new focus and alignment.
“We have discontinued the chocolate bars because, long story short, the velocity of sales was not that impressive. [Instead], we have streamlined our product offerings to focus on the chocolate balls, and now offer two flavours of this instead,” Bite Society Head of Global Sales/International Business Michal Klar told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Now, we have both Salted Caramel Choc Balls and Original Choc Balls. We held tasting sessions with multiple flavour prototypes for customers, and the salted caramel was the flavour that received the most positive reviews, far higher than all the others, so we went with it.”
Bite Society’s products are present in Hong Kong through its exclusive distributor Green Common, and it has recently also entered China via this route, though it is available exclusively online as of now.
“The choc balls are being sold via Green Common’s special store on Tmall. This is an international platform targeting Chinese consumers, and also sells other Green Common-distributed products like Omnipork,” said Klar.
He added that they have also found a distributor in South Korea who is approaching retailers at the moment, but products have already been shipped over and are ‘ready-to-go’.
“As for the rest of Asia, the next big market we are looking at is actually Singapore. We are actively looking for a distributor in the country,” Klar said.
“I really believe it is a good fit and would do well, we just need a good local partner.”
Asian market challenges
According to Klar, one of the biggest challenges Bite Society has seen in trying to crack the Asian market is that the plant-based scene is not yet quite as mature as that in Australia and New Zealand.
“In Asia, it’s still at the first wave, where people are still mostly looking at meat or dairy alternatives, direct replacements of these animal-based products. This means that retailers are still not fully aware of the vegan chocolate category just yet so we have to look at specialised ones such as Green Common for now,” he said.
“That said, following the pattern, chocolates are next in line and we are confident that the rise in demand is going to happen in Asia.”
That said, he maintained that the current novel coronavirus outbreak and scare has not affected operations or sales in either Hong Kong or China, so things are moving along normally at the moment.
“Maybe we had to slightly adjust our potential launch strategy in light of this, i.e. no public events or things like that, but overall we haven’t seen any direct impact,” Klar said.
New products and packaging
Apart from the new salted caramel flavour, Bite Society has also relaunched the original choc balls in the name of sustainability.
“It’s basically the same formulation, just in new all-recyclable packaging. All our products use recyclable packaging,” said Klar.
“We’ve also introduced 2kg bulk packaging to cater to bulk stores in Australia, such as Whole Foods in Victoria. This isn’t available in Asia yet, but we’re targeting supermarkets, health stores and cafes looking to offer plant-based creations such as vegan cakes and smoothies in the region.”
The team is also still working on creating a new vegan chocolate wafer product, which Klar said has seen ‘many prototypes’ developed and already garnered very positive feedback.
“The main challenges we’re still looking at are the form factor, the weight and the packaging – which of course is related to the price. Price is very important to us, given our motto of making vegan snacks not only tasty but affordable for the public,” he added.