According to Christiana Zhu, Co-Founder and CEO of the firm behind Yeyo which is Marvelous Foods, the Tmall flagship store is particularly important as it is a key opportunity for brand building, which is crucial when it comes to capturing the attention of rising middle class consumers.
“The plant-based market in China is right on the tip of a wave and there is massive potential due to the rising middle class and the [advent of] COVID-19, where people want to eat healthier,” Zhu told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Brand building is particularly important when it comes to China’s urbanites, they want novelty and health and premiumisation, and plant-based ticks all those boxes [but at the same time], brand building is also a major challenge especially when it comes to plant-based dairy, because [first generation products] such as soy have given a sense of plant-based being less premium – luckily coconut is still considered a novel ingredient here, but it would be hard to make a premium soy product.
“So the Tmall launch has been great so that we can get our products and brand out there – not just anyone can open a store on Tmall because they vet brands very carefully for calibre and more. Now we have the flagship store, our strategy on Tmall will be very much to build the brand as much as possible via online sales first [to solidify our products] as ones that will satisfy the demand for novelty, taste, clean and healthier options.”
To do this, the firm will also focus on building yoghurt as a snacking item in China, and not a breakfast item as is most common.
“The market opportunity is very much there in terms of snacking premiumization in tier 1 cities – China’s spend per capita on snacks is now only 10% that of the United States [and] yoghurt is also the fastest growing dairy category in China, [so we are tapping on] China’s USD $17 billion dollar yogurt market and USD $433 billion dollar snacking market,” said Zhu.
“Yoghurt in China is more commonly thought of as a snacking item – and we have designed our products as yoghurt and granola parfaits suitable for post-workouts or after-tea occasions, with no sugar or artificial flavours, such that these are more premium [and] unique than say yoghurt drinks.”
Yeyo’s coconut yoghurt parfaits comes in peach crunch and strawberry chocolate, yoghurts in two fixed flavours (pure, coconut nectar) and a variety of other limited edition flavours that change weekly (e.g. sakura matcha). The yoghurts retail for CNY28 (IS$4.38) for a 150ml pack, and all items on the Tmall store were sold out as of time of writing.
Waiting for the right time
Zhu also told us that online retail in China will remain the firm’s main focus for now, but there are plans to go offline and also overseas in the future.
“We believe that it is important to have a very strong brand background such as we intend to build up with the Tmall store – I have seen some [other new snack brands] also go online first then offline too early, end up with their costs of acquisition being too high, products stopped moving after going offline, and then getting kicked off shelves. We definitely do not want that to happen,” she said.
“So elevating the brand here in China will be the first main strategy, and we might get offline hopefully end-2021. We’d definitely be looking at also increasing our manufacturing and production capacity first, then only looking at other APAC countries to expand either as Yeyo or another brand, depending on what appeals to consumers.”
Whilst doing that though, the focus will be on creating more interesting premium products to widen the firm’s product portfolio.
“We do have more SKU’s planned for early 2022, such as added-functional yoghurts which many Tier 1 consumers are interested in, e.g. with increased protein, macro and micronutrients like fibre, vitamins, and the like,” she said.
“Another interesting one would be an ambient version of our yoghurts so as to make distribution easier as well as to make it more convenient for consumers to bring these to gyms, office and anywhere else they’d like to have it.”
We’ll be shining the spotlight on both Plant-based Innovation and Healthy Snacking in our Growth Asia 2021 interactive broadcast series, featuring expert insights from a host of big-name brands and world-renowned experts. Register for free here.