Sauce of growth: Lee Kum Kee craves bigger presence in SEA, India and Middle East

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Lee Kum Kee's focus is aligned with global food trends such as healthy eating and convenience foods. ©Lee Kum Kee
Lee Kum Kee's focus is aligned with global food trends such as healthy eating and convenience foods. ©Lee Kum Kee

Related tags Lee Kum Kee Sauces Hong kong China South East Asia India Middle east condiments

Long-established sauces brand Lee Kum Kee says it is keeping up with the times through flavour localisation, and staying attuned to global trends by introducing heathier options and convenience sauces.

Claimed to be the inventor of oyster sauce more than a century ago, Hong Kong-based Lee Kum Kee today houses over 300 items under its portfolio of Asian condiments. 

To discover more collaboration opportunities with business operators in the region, the company recently participated in THAIFEX – Anuga Asia 2023 for the first time.

“THAIFEX is a good platform for us to strengthen our presence in Thailand, as well as throughout South East Asia (SEA), including Singapore and Malaysia.

“Currently, we distribute to more than 100 countries worldwide, with our home ground China as the biggest market. We hope to have a bigger outreach not only in this region, but all the way to India and Middle East,” ​Cheryl Chan, Regional Marketing Director of Lee Kum Kee, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

The firm had specially designed its booth to resemble a train, which is named “LEE KUM KEE Flavour Express” under the theme of “From Asia to Any Kitchen”.

lkk thaifex
©Lee Kum Kee

Our brand was founded 135 years ago in Guangdong, China. Over the years, we have developed many types of sauces that are widely used in Asian cuisines, and we want to showcase our expertise and innovations to the rest of the world. THAIFEX is the first station for us in SEA. Next, we will bring this concept to trade shows in the Philippines and Indonesia,” ​said Chan.

Products under Lee Kum Kee’s oyster sauce and soy sauce series remain the brand’s best-sellers.

As part of its strategy to capture a bigger market share in various countries, the firm has established plants across the globe, where every facility has its own R&D team to develop products that cater specifically to local consumer needs.

For example, it has launched a range of sauces named the “Nanyang series”, comprising products like Chili Crab Paste, Kung Pao Paste, Laksa Paste and Hainanese Chicken Rice Paste, which are aimed at the Malaysia and Singapore markets.

“Our core range of products are adapted from the original recipe. These new flavours were developed to suit the taste of local consumers in the region. We also have a Vietnamese Soy Sauce that was created specially for the market and whose label comes in the native language. We’re working on something for the Philippines, too.”

According to Chan, the firm’s consumer-centric product development is based on customer feedback on the ground, as well as insights from market research.

Aligned with global trends

“Going forward, our focus is pretty much aligned with global food trends. After the pandemic, we have seen a lot of changes in consumer behaviour, particularly towards healthy eating. So, expanding our healthy range is definitely a big thing for us,” ​Chan said.

Apart from the existing gluten-free soy sauce, the brand recently added several products to its “healthier options” line-up, including reduced-salt oyster sauce and soy sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, and ginseng chicken soup base.

“This year, we are running a campaign to further drive awareness of our reduced-salt oyster sauce and soy sauce in Singapore. In addition, we will be launching a non-MSG oyster sauce in Thailand for our food service customers.”

Another trend that Lee Kum Kee has observed is convenience foods.

“Now that we are in the new normal, it means people are going back to a busy lifestyle — people have returned to work in office and are travelling again. As a result, they have less time to cook.

“However, some people may have picked up cooking during the pandemic and want to continue this habit. They may also find it healthier and more cost-saving, especially with the high inflation now,” ​explained Chan.  

In response, the brand plans to introduce more ready-made sauces and soup bases, such as Rich & Savoury Noodle Stir-Fry Sauce and Sichuan Style Hot & Spicy Soup Base.

“With these convenient sauces, consumers can easily whip up a delicious meal by adding noodles, etc. Similarly, we will continue to develop flavours that are popular with the local audience.”

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