When we spoke to Yeyo in July last year, the firm had just launched its Tmall flagship store with a focus on brand building in the China market, with no offline stores to speak of. Less than a year on, it now has offline presence in about 200 stores nationwide, including retailers such as MUJI and BHG.
“We have presence in most of the high-end supermarkets and will also be in ALDI stores soon, and it won’t be long before we hit the mass market retailers as well,” Christiana Zhu, Co-Founder and CEO of Yeyo’s mother company Marvelous Foods, told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We started online to get the feedback we needed to tweak the product according to consumer demands, but at the end of the day yoghurt is a cold chain product and most sales will come from offline as the supply chain and distribution is much more efficient for it, so we are seeing even faster growth with our offline expansion.
“In addition to retail outlets, we’ve also been distributing to F&B channels such as salad bars – these are a very crucial location for us as it is where a lot of our main target market go to for their office lunch, and being present in those places means we can also be part of their office lunch options.”
Yeyo’s main target market is female consumers between the ages of 25 to 39, as the firm believes that this group is most in tune with the trends driving the local plant-based dairy market.
“This group of consumers are the ones that are most fashion-forward and trendy, and thus pay most attention to international trends such as better-for-you and healthier food options,” said Zhu.
“They are also the ones who are on Instagram and other social media outlets seeking out these products, so we need to innovate and create products that are of value to them, e.g. being low-sugar, high-vitamin, high-fibre as well as fun and novel.”
Marvelous Foods recently successfully closed a US$1.2mn funding round, and according to Zhu these funds will be focused on bolstering the firm’s product portfolio beyond its current spoonable coconut yoghurt range to include more items that would attract its main target audience.
“We’re looking at things like dairy-free drinks such as smoothies, as well as other low-sugar, high-nutrition desserts that all ride on the healthy angle,” she said.
“The focus will still be on the health aspect as this is still the main reason that Chinese consumers are choosing plant-based products, not so much sustainability or animal cruelty as is common in the west.”
The new product ranges will continue to fall under the Yeyo brand. In addition to this, Yeyo will continue to offer its core range of Sugar-free, Strawberry Chocolate and Peach flavours but will also be operating flavours based on a rolling calendar in 2022, where different seasonal flavours will be made available every two months.
“The aim here is to target the flavours to current local trends, so for instance, it’s spring now so we’ve launched a Coffee Berry and a Coconut Mango flavour to highlight prosperity (the word ‘mango’ in Mandarin Chinese is a homonym with the word for ‘busy’) of the year and also Shanghai’s love for coffee,” she said.
For the time being, Yeyo’s focus will remain on building its market up in China whilst expanding its product range to scout the best areas for plant-based development.
“We very much want to expand as efficiently as possible, so we are focusing on growth first with a big push to put more plant-based chess pieces on the board and gauge the popularity of each, so we will know where we should invest more effort especially during the summer when trends can become very apparent,” said Zhu.
“This is the reason we’re focused on launching more product lines this year, as well as on our distribution where we’re working with a distribution partner that has 27 distribution points all over the country with cold chain plants, and is going to grow this to 100 by 2027 which means Yeyo will be even more widely available then.
“We will also continue to use e-commerce to find the most current trends and hit the points consumers want so we can expand offline accordingly in the markets that have the most potential. Once we hit that maturity, we can start looking beyond but for now we want to keep things efficient.”