Beyond Chinese diaspora: TCM firm Eu Yan Sang pursues new audience in North America’s health and wellness market

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Gold Label Bak Foong Pill for regulating menstrual ailments is one of Eu Yan Sang's flagship products. ©Eu Yan Sang
Gold Label Bak Foong Pill for regulating menstrual ailments is one of Eu Yan Sang's flagship products. ©Eu Yan Sang

Related tags Eu Yan Sang TCM Singapore

Singapore-headquartered Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) company Eu Yan Sang is actively pursuing growth in North America’s health and wellness market by targeting not just the Chinese diaspora, but also those who are willing to give the category a try.

The company, which celebrates its 144th​ year in 2023, decided to focus more on the US and Canada about a year ago.

Currently, its products are available in North America via e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, Weee!, and Yami. Offline, the products are also distributed in herbal stores and Chinese medical halls off the East and West coast of America, including cities such as New York and San Francisco.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Dominic Wong, Group CEO at Eu Yan Sang International, said that the expansion would see the firm serve a wider group of audience – beyond the Chinese diaspora – and competing not only in the TCM sector, but the wider health and wellness market.

“To me, our expansion, whether it's the US or anywhere else, it's not just about identifying the Chinese race.

“I think that's wrong because in North America, there are a lot of educated people in certain communities that are looking for non-synthetics, non-pharmaceuticals, or something that can complement what they are taking at that moment.

“In that instance and certainly for Eu Yan Sang, we will break away from thinking that we only would appeal to a certain group of people by the type of group that they were born into.”

Knowledge of TCM is growing in the continent, he said, adding that millions of online keyword searches across North America and Europe already surrounded terms such as alternative medicine, TCM, reishi (Lingzhi), and ginseng. They reflect the types of consumer interest and demand in these regions. 

For Eu Yan Sang, the more popular products in North America include its bottled bird’s nest and Bak Foong Pill for regulating menstrual ailments and invigorating blood flow in women. 

Eu Yan Sang - bottled bird's nest
Bottled bird's nest is one of Eu Yan Sang's bestsellers in the US market. © Eu Yan Sang

In addition, Wong emphasised that the aim of the expansion was not only to make a name for itself in the TCM space, but also in the wider health and wellness sector in North America – which he said would be a much tougher and “extremely competitive”​ space. 

“We are not just competing with the other TCM brands. If our belief and ambition is to become a well-known brand, we should not just be competing within a very small circle of TCM players.

“If you look at the defined market of TCM, I think the competition in North America is decent. But if you look at the entire health and wellness market, it's extremely competitive, it's so competitive to the extent that you can easily get drown.”

As such, the company's target audience are TCM users, as well as those who are curious and willing to give TCM a try. The firm believes that there is a sizeable number of such potential users.  

“For us, the people that we want to focus on are the people that we think are already TCM converts, but there's also a whole bunch of people in the middle who are willing to try TCM. 

“Even for keyword searches, there are lots of ways that point us to these types of consumers who are curious about TCM.”

The North America health and wellness market is one of the largest in the world, boasting a market size of US$37.9bn in year 2022, according to the International Alliance of Dietary / Food Supplement Associations (IADSA)​, citing data from Euromonitor’s Passport Consumer Health database.

Why North America?

Strong brand recognition among Asian diaspora is one of the reasons why Eu Yan Sang is having “an increased appetite for doing well” ​in the North American market in the past year.

“North America was always something that we like as a market, but I think that in the past year, we have had an increased appetite for doing well in this market, and now, we are very focused on it."

Market opportunities are expected to grow with the continued influx of Asian diasporas into the continent. 

“The biggest movement into North America and Europe at the secondary and tertiary level alone is from Asia and our brand recognition in Asia is fantastic.

“And there’s also immigration, say for example Canada. There's still a massive net intake of immigrants – 1.5 million in the next three years and they are predominantly from Asia,” ​said Wong.  

The Canadian government last year announced its plans in welcoming about 1.5 million immigrants into the country between 2023 and 2025. 

Channel strategies

While Eu Yan Sang’s products are currently available in North America’s Chinese medical halls, herbal product stores, and e-commerce, it is also working to enter health and wellness stores, supermarkets, modern trade, and multi-chain retailers to increase brand awareness.

Some of these retailers do not resemble the traditional Chinese medical hall but serve TCM and Chinese food products such as fish maw.

“For sure we are not going to be limited to just Chinese medical halls. There are definitely some multi-chain retailers that are very modern, that looks nothing like a Chinese medical hall and serves Mexican, Korean, and Japanese products…Those are the types of retail channels that we are looking at.

“And definitely there’s the health and wellness specialty stores that serve specialty vitamin, supplements, and natural herbs,”​ Wong said.

Nonetheless, he emphasised that Chinese medical halls would still be crucial in the company’s North America expansion strategy.

“But even for Chinese medical halls, I don’t want to belittle that channel, because there’s still some opportunities there.”

This strategy is based on the understanding that the North America market is multi-dimensional, much more complex, and different in size as compared to various other markets that the company has been serving in Asia, said Wong.

“The challenge for us, is not to forget that our go-to market strategy in a much bigger market like North America must be very targeted. We must know the cities that we want to prioritise, the types of customers that we want to prioritise, and the types of channels that we want to prioritise.

“Otherwise, we will just be drowned, because there's so many brands vying for people's attention.”

Expansion in Asia

Other than North America, the company is also expanding its presence in new Asia Pacific markets, such as Philippines, where it has launched kiosks in shopping malls.

In Singapore and Hong Kong where it is already well-established, the company has been introducing its new integrated health facility known as One Wellness Medical that combines Western and Eastern medical practices. 

Taiwan and Australia are the other markets where the firm would focus on for expansion.

“Stick to the knitting”

Even as the firm is expanding its market presence, Wong pointed out three fundamental principles that the firm should stick to for continued success.

“We have very good and high quality products and so firstly, we shouldn't stray away from and shy away from what we are very good at.

“The next important factor, is understanding the local idiosyncrasies or differences in new markets such as North America, in order to understand consumer behaviour.

“Third is to stick to our knitting, but customise our approach to cater for the special factors that are different from the home market in Asia, and making sure that we tailor our solutions.”

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