20 Years of Entrepreneurship with Ingenuity and Quick-wit
As cooking and dining at home becomes the new normal, a great variety of food and grocery stores popped up as a result. Famous for sauce and condiments, broth, snacks and canned foods, Yummy House has went through the highs and lows because of the new market environment. “Before COVID, we normally received more than 10,000 day-tour visitors from around 100 coaches every month. Of course they are all gone now, but the growth in online sales somehow allows us to take the rough with the smooth.” In 20 years of time, Shea King Fung, Managing Director of Yummy House, has built the brand in global markets, all thanks to their family business network, his ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking.
Hongkonger Starts from Scratch to Build a Brand
“My family found their first bucket of gold by trading garlic 50 years ago, then turned to dried food and grocery wholesale business later. We were the sole agent in Hong Kong at that time, making trade in overseas countries all over the world. My mum brought me to Mainland China to manage food trading since I was 11, so I felt a special bond with the industry.”
The export trade business has opened up Shea’s connection with hundreds of food manufacturing plants in China, as well as numerous Chinese supermarkets across the world. He then thought about building a brand in 2001. “We bumped into dishonest merchants or fraudulent practices from time to time, after we spent huge amount of efforts sourcing goods for buyers. Besides, during the period of China’s reform and opening-up policies, a lot of manufacturers started to compete with us and contacted the overseas buyers directly, that’s why I decided to build a brand of my own.”
Selling more than 400 different kinds of grocery, snacks, dried seafood and soup packs, the company’s original sauce, mustard tuber and biscuits remain the top of sales chart claiming 70% of revenue. “Back in the days, oyster sauce was immensely popular. Unwilling to drift with the current, we came up with abalone sauce using dried scallop, which has become one of the best-selling sauces in our portfolio to date that has drawn many copycats, even the big brands launched similar products in the market. We also pioneered the traditional premium soy sauce, making us the one of the key leaders in the market.”
Creative Use of Trending Comic and Games for Promotion
Product innovation is key to a brand, whereas original marketing strategy is just as important to impress consumers. “My son loves Animal Crossing, a video game that allows players to create their own imaginary world. This inspired me to ride the wave of the game for our marketing and stay ahead of trends. We posted HK$20,000 to hire a player to build a “Yummy House World” in the game, and ended up with a large number of job candidates, raved discussions in town, and a considerable foreign media online coverage, which were totally unexpected.”
“Before this, we had made advertisements using Japanese manga style and received quite positive feedbacks from the market. It has inspired other brands to pay big bucks for Japanese animation makers to recreate Hong Kong street scenes with a heart-warming story.”
Caring Service and Use of Technology are the Imperatives
Recognised as Caring Company for 6th consecutive years, Yummy House is well known for its consumer centricity. “After-sales service is always one of our top priorities, a customer had once asked for exchange of the sauce and snacks that turned bad, even though we found out the issue was caused by improper storage by the customer, we still replaced the little leftovers with new ones to ensure the food safety.”
“Besides collecting customers’ feedback at stores or in exhibitions, we have also tapped into big data like online search performance to introduce new products, for example ready-to-eat sea cucumber, ready-to-drink soup, to keep our products up-to-date.” Responding to customers’ needs and market demands shows the company’s commitment to on-going improvement.
Learning New Economic Culture and Agile to Market
As member of GS1 HK’s SME Advisory board, he shared the same concern with other peers as the COVID-19 situation lingers for another year and continues to cause recession.
“The pandemic has suspended container terminals and flights, and dealt a severe blow to many Chinese importers and exporters. As Mainland China advocates internal domestic economy, it can be a big window for many businesses.” Shea advised local SMEs to take a leap of faith in new initiatves, instead of waiting to be saved or fantasizing economic recovery very soon.
Despite the need for weeks of mandatory quarantine, I had travelled back and forth to Mainland China and experienced great changes each time in the post-COVID era, from the salary of Meituan delivery man, to the virtual promotional tools and platforms, all showing signs of opportunities. So I encourage SMEs and the young people to visit and get the feel themselves in Mainland China, to recognise the PROs and CONs of yourself and the environment, so you can find your own development and growth.