Based in China, Hubei Bestore is an online enterprise marketing Chinese snacks to consumers worldwide. What makes these products so popular amongst consumers, and will the face of the Western snacking industry be changed by such influences?
Bestore’s chairman, Yang Hongchun, details the progress the brand is making in the snack sector.
What is attracting European consumers to buy Chinese snacks?
The birth of Hubei Bestore originates from the idea of “putting the world’s snacks by the door of consumers”, and after 12 years of thorough development, we are gradually becoming the leading brand of casual snacks in China.
China’s food is rich and varied in types, and they are really delicious. For example, the spicy gluten sticks that foreign netizens have posted about on social media in the past two years, which have attracted food lovers from around the world.
This is especially true for snacks. For example, Bestore now boasts more than 1,200 kinds of snacks. We have a rich variety of tastes and mouthfeel, including sour, sweet, bitter, spicy and salty flavours.
In 2018, we launched a series of snacks that can best represent Chinese characteristics in overseas markets such as the UK and Australia, including stinky tofu, stewed lotus root, fried dough twists, millet crisp crusts, haw flakes, lotus seeds, and melon seeds.
Where there are consumers, there are Bestore snacks. Billions of overseas Chinese and foreign consumers who love Chinese food show a broader blue ocean to Bestore.
Consumers in every country will follow their own respective cultures, thinking habits and consumer preferences. In the future, the globalisation of Bestore will be divided into two steps. At this stage, 100 million overseas Chinese and international students are our main target groups, and the snacks will focus on Chinese flavours.
Next, we will look for partners overseas to jointly develop products suitable for tastes of consumers from different countries, and strive to sell products in large chain supermarkets and thus explore and develop offline markets that account for 90% of overseas snack consumption.
Is this purely an online business?
In 2018, Bestore began to test the overseas market, and wanted Chinese snacks to be enjoyed by more food lovers.
In the expansion of overseas markets, we plan to do cross-border e-commerce with the help of Alibaba’s “Tmall World”, and we have built our own overseas warehouse.
We are taking the lead in upgrading the supply chain, establishing international logistics contacts with the countries mentioned above, and building warehouse and distribution systems in cooperation with overseas logistics companies in important markets such as the US, Canada, and Australia.
Once the consumer places an order online, small packages of less than 30 kilograms are shipped directly from domestic warehouses and delivered to consumers through cross-border logistics or distributed locally through overseas warehouses.
We will try to promote more delicious Chinese snacks to be sold abroad, and bring delicious products and experiences to overseas consumers.
What has been the most lucrative type of product for Chinese snacks?
Looking at the leisure snack market in China and around the world, consumers are gradually aware of the “quality” of the food from the quantity to quality, from products to services, and from consumption to experience.
They have already shifted from the past “seeking the cheapest” and “securing basic needs” to “pursing quality” and “healthy consumption”.
They put more emphasis on the customisation of food, the realisation of social identity, where emotional demand is expressed through the service of goods.
In the face of such a market, it is the brand which can provide consumers with high-quality, high-standard products, and the best service experience that will grasp the market initiative in the future.
From the perspective of category, due to the cost of raw materials, production and processing, meat, nuts, seafood snacks and other categories are of higher prices with relatively high profits.
In our opinion, there is no snack product that is the most profitable, but only the products that consumers enjoy.
For more information about Hubei Bestore, click here.
What is the appeal for “ready-to-eat” seafood? How does this differentiate from products such as sushi?
In 2015, the R&D team of Bestore started to develop seafood snacks, which then became a brand new, fast-growing snack category.
We choose seafood ingredients from all over the world, such as abalone and prawns from China’s Yellow Sea area, little yellow croaker from the East China Sea, little fry from South China, carp from the Pacific Ocean, and squid from Peru.
These ingredients made from seafood, after the research and development and sterilisation, can be kept for more than six months at room temperature. These products are easy and convenient to consume. People can enjoy the delicious taste from the sea at any time, which is popular among young consumers in China.
For example, the instant abalone that was submitted to the World Food Innovation Awards was faced with two major problems in the early stages of development: “How to ensure the savoury taste of the product and how to get rid of the fishy smell of the product”.
The R&D team spent nearly half a year and tried more than 10 kinds of peppers, and finally chose to incorporate Sichuan pepper with its moderate spicy taste. This can also retain the freshness of scallops, making the flesh sweeter and chewy. It received huge popularity after its launch.
Sushi is from Japanese cuisine, which is a traditional dish, while our snacks are just for leisure. In contrast, because of the convenience of ready-to-eat and the richness in high-quality high-protein, our snacks are favoured by food enthusiasts.
Could you name some differences between Chinese consumers and European consumers?
The new generation of people (post-90 and post-00 generations in China) and female groups are becoming the mainstay of casual snacks.
The new generation of consumers, who emphasize on the brand and quality, also look forward to customization, self-realization of social identity, and emotional demand behind the goods service.
In China, consumers refer to snacks as “fourth meal”, which is food that is equivalent to “staple food” in the three meals and non-essential consumer goods for impulsive consumption;
The younger generation of consumers focus both on taste and healthiness. A clean and healthy meal boasts less additives, more organics and other high-quality certification;
Generally speaking, the meal time, taking the city’s young white-collar group as an example, is 7 am to 9 am for breakfast, 12 pm to 13 pm for lunch, and 6 pm to 8 pm for dinner;
A more convenient and better shopping experience is how the consumer side may perceive the supply chain.
What are the current trends in terms of premium snacks in China?
We can view this from two aspects: one is the industry trends, reflected in consumers’ shopping habits. With the rapid development of online and mobile consumption, consumer behaviours have also become fragmented and diversified.
According to the Report of China’s Online Snack Consuming Trends, the number of users who buy foods online in China reaches over 70 million, and the snack tops and accounts for nearly 30% among all foods sold online, even showing a modest increase.
In the medium and long term, consumption patterns will be more diversified, with emphasis on convenience for online shopping, and on experience for offline shopping. The two consumption modes can be integrated and complemented so as to meet the consumption needs of different goods and in different scenarios.
In China, the brands represented by Bestore attach great importance on new retail. It launches operations through omni-channels and integrates online and offline services. Up to now, the ratio of Bestore’s number between online and offline orders is close to 2:1, and both of them are increasing.
In the snack industry, emerging consumer concepts represented by “healthy snacks” are gaining popularity. CBNData’s data report shows that natural, whole grains, sugar-free, and additive-free have become the popular labels for snacks. The improvement of ingredients and additives in line with requirements for being healthy has become the trend for the major snack enterprises in China.
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