NutraIngredients-Asia first covered Fiji Kava’s strides in China –capitalising on kava’s TCM appeal – in 2020.
It first distributed on Alibaba’s Tmall platform via its distributor, PuMate (Shanghai) Limited, in January 2022.
But in April this year, it handed the reigns over to RooLife, specialising in cross-border e-commerce, to handle distribution in both Australia and China.
Changing distributor in China
Its CEO, Anthony Noble, explained the distributor change in China was due to its strategy to move from purely online to a brick-and-mortar flagship store.
While some sales have been generated on Tmall, it has not been significant, he added. However, China continues to be a key export market for Fiji Kava, and the brand is hoping its new distribution deal will grow this slice of the pie.
“The difference is that we’re going to be putting a lot more firepower behind the product marketing. The [RooLife] team is expert in this area. They’ve got people on the ground in China and an amazing track record, particularly with what they did with the Kombucha range Remedy – taking them from online into retailing.
“We’re going to move into drinks and beverages in the future. So, we’re sort of going from a niche and small distributor to a more established and serious player who has taken the kind of products in the direction we want.”
He said that Fiji Kava will be available online at least for the first year, and it is exploring distributing at brick-and-mortar stores in China afterwards.
Premium product distribution strategy
Noble also explained the business decision to let RooLife handle the distribution in the home market: “The most important thing for us is achieving a coordination in the messaging and pricing. You’re going to see from us a range of offerings that are much more aligned in terms of how we talk about and price the products, so that consumers all around the world get a similar experience with our products.
“One of the things we understand is that the modern consumer is extremely sophisticated, as they look at the price and brand positioning in Australia, New Zealand, potentially Vietnam, and various markets they are offered. So, it’s really important that we coordinate what we’re doing across all these markets.”
He added that the brand has had previous partnerships capitalising on discount pricings, but it was not economically feasible for certified organic and premium products.
NPD focused on consumer goods and sports performance
Fiji Kava’s product range currently spans mainly medicines and health supplements. Its NPD is aimed at developing “occasional consumer goods for recreation”, such as dietary shots, coffee, and fresh juices – as an alternative to alcohol.
“You have a natural product that doesn’t have any of the negative side effects of alcohol. If you don’t happen to drink alcohol or maybe culturally it’s not something you can drink, you still can have one of our kava drinks to help you chill, relax, and have a good time. I think from an NPD perspective, what’s most exciting for us is these original beverage plans.”
Another key aspect of its distribution is its co-marketing with RooLife’s protein foods brand, VORA. It is giving a free sample of its Fijian noble kava root powder alongside a VORA product purchase.
Noble revealed that its rationale for co-marketing was to properly penetrate the sports recovery market. For example, with its “Noble Body” supplement targeting muscle relaxation after sports, the capsule format of the product currently does not appeal to athlete consumers.
“We tried to capture the market, but it didn’t perform particularly well. We know we should target athletic performance or bodybuilding consumers, for example, but they don’t want to see that in a capsule. They want that in a powder form in a protein shake to drink it after workout.
“We’re focused on bringing these muscle recovery products in a way that’s easy for people to use. When you put a scoop of kava powder in your after-workout protein shake, you get the protein benefit and muscle relaxation benefit. Knowing there’s a market already established in the sports side of things, it makes sense to give those people a chance to try this for free. See if you like it, and maybe this is something you can add to your workout schedule.”
Rebranding to “The Calmer Co”
Fiji Kava also recently changed its company name to The Calmer Co, which Noble claims better reflects their product range and strategy.
The Calmer Co currently encompasses both its original house brands – Fiji Kava and Taki Mai – and acquired brands like Danodan.
“We’re hoping more brands will join the family over time. We wanted a brand that was reflective of the broader ambitions we have in terms of what we deliver for customers. The Calmer Co reflects that we deliver the benefits of improving sleep, reducing anxiety, and recovering from sports.
“It won’t make any difference for customers buying our products. It will all look and feel the same for customers. But for investors and people at the corporate level, we’re expanding what we’re saying about the company to align more closely to our customers with what we’re doing, instead of focusing on only one brand in the family.”
Kombucha and Probiotic Juices in the APAC Region
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