Marvelous Foods is a functional plant-based dairy-alternative firm targeting consumers in search of premium dairy alternatives in China and has just launched China’s first plant-based coconut yoghurt flagship store on Tmall.
“China makes up one-fifth of the global population and consumes half of the world’s plant-based beverages. So plant-based dairy is not new in China, but it’s more about a change in premiumisation,” Zhu told FoodNavigator-Asia
“So the plant-based change being seen in China is not so much about the dawn of a new lifestyle or anything for consumers, but more the premiumisation of something they know very well already. Our working hypothesis is that with rapidly improving lifestyles and socioeconomics, consumers will thus be willing to pay more for plant-based items with functional benefits and that taste better.”
She added that taste remains paramount for any food and beverage product launch in China as although the novelty factor may entice consumers to try this once, taste and only taste will keep them coming back.
“Chinese consumers are very adventurous and open to trying new things, so getting the first lot of sales is not the hardest in China – but repeat purchases, that is really the key and the driver for repeat purchase is pretty simple, it’s taste,” Zhu said.
“For Chinese consumers, what we observe is that they are less willing to sacrifice taste for other ‘benefits’, whether this be from a standpoint of ethics, morals, health or anything else. If the product taste is not good, consumers are willing to eat less to be healthier or more sustainable, thank to eat something that doesn’t taste good”
Zhu was born in New Zealand but has been living in China for some 10 years now, and based on her experience working both in a western environment and in China, she also shared with us how different the work culture really is and what it means to lead in such a context.
“China’s context is that it’s a very Confucius-driven society, which means hierarchy is very important here. You must know your role and play your role and together, there will be harmony and everything will move,” she said.
“Communications here are also different, where it’s more about building relationships and less about efficiency – very different from say New Zealand where efficiency is key in order to get things done as there are far less people than in China to do it.
“But when it comes down to it, when you look at what has been achieved here in this economy, it really works. China has grown far faster than any other economy and the amount of change and development here is astronomical - so the results must be respected.”
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