Wah Yuen

Traditional HK Snack Transcends the Local Market


The competition in the Hong Kong snack food market has become increasingly fierce in the past decade. With an array of products imported from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and other parts of the world, consumers are spoiled for choice.

Wah Yuen, a local snack brand famous for its flavourful and crispy vegan goose, has stood still in the market for 66 years. Apart from its classic signature products, Wah Yuen owes its success to the dedications of the second and third-generation family members who not only uphold the traditions passed down by their predecessors but also constantly bring in new ideas. They have diversified the product line, engaged in cross-industry collaborations, and expanded into new markets with vertically integrated production and sales channels, keeping the brand both timeless and fresh.


Blending Tradition with a Modern Twist

The eye-catching red, yellow and purple diagonal lined packaging of Wah Yuen’s traditional crispy vegan goose snack was actually designed by a Japanese designer in the 1970s. Brian But, a 3rd generation director of Wah Yuen said, although their snacks evoke cherished childhood memories and a sense of nostalgia to many Hong Kong locals, the company is not confined to the past. Instead, they consistently innovate with new flavours and snack ideas. Wah Yuen now produces and offers over a hundred product items, including not only additional flavours like black pepper and wasabi for the traditional crispy vegan goose, but also beef jerky, pork jerky, fish skin, egg rolls, and dried fruits. Wah Yuen also sources products from Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and other overseas market. Brian gave an example, “We were so impressed after trying a famous hand cooked black truffle potato chips at an exhibition in Dubai and have subsequently introduced them to Hong Kong. Later on, a friend in Hong Kong told me he failed to buy that very product from abroad, I couldn’t help but laugh and told him that there was no need to fuss because it is actually available locally in Hong Kong.”

Wah Yuen has also been involved in pet snack manufacturing for over a decade, providing OEM production services to American pet food brands. This has laid a strong foundation for the company to further expand and capitalise on the fast-growing pet economy by launching its own pet snack brand to be sold on e-commerce platforms such as Ali Express, TEMU and Amazon.


Keeping Pace with the Times for 35 Years

Wah Yuen has been a member of GS1 Hong Kong since 1989 – the year GS1 Hong Kong was founded. The barcode technology enabled faster point-of-sale checkout and also improved production and warehouse management, resulting in significant gains in work efficiency and reduced manpower. 

“For the past 35 years, we have relied on GS1 Hong Kong’s barcode standard to distribute our products globally, including selling through e-commerce platforms and other online channels.” 

Brian is pleased to learn that barcode has progressed with times and can now display more types of information to consumers through QR codes, such as nutrition labels, certifications, and promotional offers, aligning with the modern habit of using smartphones to scan codes and access information.


Swift Market Entry of New Products

During the 1990s, the company moved on from its first production facility in Sham Shui Po to adopting a “front store, back factory” model, with operations spanning both Henan and Hong Kong. Today, they have a total of three centralized production lines, including one in Laos, supplying to local markets in China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and overseas. Both the Hong Kong and mainland factories have dedicated test kitchens for product development and customization to suit local tastes.

“The Sichuan fish soup with pickled mustard greens have become infectiously popular in mainland China, so we launched a new product edition to incorporate the flavour catering to the market demand. We also crossover with other brands, celebrities, and key opinion leaders (KOLs) from time to time for limited product editions. For example, we partnered with the ‘Chef Nic’ brand to co-create a popcorn with our signature crispy vegan goose-flavor, which has received enthusiastic response,” said Kade, the 3rd generation director who is responsible for the Greater China business. Wah Yuen covers the China market through both listing on physical stores, third party e-commerce platforms and its own online stores. Listing products on e-commerce platforms involves lower costs compared to physical stores, but provides a wider customer reach, and facilitates faster capital turnover. It is now a strategic direction to devote more resources to develop its online business in China, such as creating their own live streaming e-commerce platforms and inviting KOLs to host product broadcast sessions.

“For each direct online sales order, it takes just 10 to 20 days for us to complete production and then deliver the products to the buyer‘s door. Therefore we don’t need to keep large stockpiles, which in turn saves warehouse rent and reduces inventory waste.”

Such a vertically integrated production and sales model is effective in meeting consumers’ fast-changing tastes. The R&D team in China can develop new flavors, complete production and launch it to test the market response within as short as one or two weeks, before deciding on the production scale based on their popularity.


Food Safety

Wah Yuen’s China production facilities are located in Henan Province, a major agricultural hub in the mainland, where raw materials can be sourced directly from the local suppliers, streamlining the procurement process, and enhancing cost control, resulting in more competitive pricing of Wah Yuen products.

Every step in the food processing strictly adheres to food safety protocols. The raw materials are screened by dedicated personnel during procurement, while the finished products must pass a series of quality checks for moisture content, bacterial levels, and food appearance, etc, and go through daily random taste tests. The entire production process is closely monitored to maintain the highest standards of food safety. Kade states, “Whenever there is a customer complaint, we take it seriously and investigate the root cause to avoid any food safety risks.”


Balancing Profits & ESG

Just as consumers place higher emphasis on corporate social value, Wah Yuen has supported various charitable projects over the years, such as donating food to elderly homes and sponsoring local cultural activities in music and the arts. Regarding environmental protection, Brian acknowledges the current challenge in further reducing food packaging waste in its production and sales process - while most recyclable materials are still in research to attain bacterial levels low enough for food packaging, others are too costly to procure. They will nevertheless keep a close eye on the latest development in food sustainability, and strive to strike a balance environmental protection, food safety, and attaining economical cost structure.

As the bearer of a family legacy spanning over 60 years, the new generation of the business are aiming for Wah Yuen to become a “century-old enterprise”. Both Brian and Kade agree that digitization and green initiatives are the future direction of the company’s development to ensure that Wah Yuen's iconic brand continues to shine brightly.