China Food

Who can be China’s “Suntory”?


beverage products, channels, brand war.

The public is already too familiar with the context of consumption upgrading.

From new tea to aesthetic home, from independent fashion brand to online exhibition, the era of consumption upgrading 1.0 directly brings about product and mode innovation.

Take the beverage market. Product innovation is sugar free bubble water, light milk tea, milk tea, fruit tea began to enter the consumer’s menu. The model updating means that the instant tea has become the standard of street shops, and the retail channel has started to expand in all directions besides the convenience of supermarkets.


From my personal observation, the beverage market is far from saturated. It is still in the stage of “large development space, product standards, and the opportunity for the birth of brands covering the whole country in different categories”. The era of consumption upgrading 2.0 has just begun.

The main feature of this stage is that new entrants and traditional giants will fight hand-to-hand around products, channels and brands, and rapidly evolve in the direction of digitization, trend and branding.

Combined with China Chain Association, Sullivan consulting and many industry reports, this article will use some new consumer brands in the field of tea and beauty to talk about the effective ways to play the cutting-edge beverage brands in the era of consumption upgrading 2.0.


Can the product make new patterns?

There must be opportunities for the single product breakthrough in the market segment.

Even if the new tea market, which is the most crowded in the public opinion, feels that Xicha and Naixue’s tea together occupy more than half of China, in fact, there are many other categories.

Banxiandoufu and pucha focus on the innovation of pulp and puree around soymilk tea. Even lemon has set up a lemon shop in Shanghai.

In the beverage market, since last year, sugar free tea and bubble water have become the absolute trend, and 0 sugar 0 fat 0 card has become the main theme of the public from a new concept. Players are crowded in, this time also do product innovation, how to play a new brand?

From the perspective of raw material composition, it is not the optimal solution to cut in with sugar. After Yuanqi forest brought erythritol to the fire, the upstream sugar supplier Jinhe industry and others increased their investment. This sweetener is much more expensive than aspartame and other sweeteners. It is difficult to reduce the cost and price.

Adding some fruit flavor elements is also a choice. But most of the drinks on the market are fruits and plants. Lemon, orange and mango are popular. How to make different tastes is also a problem.

Let’s take a look at how new brands such as Hankou No.2 factory and bestime do it.

Hankou No.2 factory is more famous for its taste innovation. Take their famous salted pineapple, which tastes sweet and salty. This is similar to the way of eating guava at home in Guangdong and Guangxi. It is split in the middle and sprinkled with plum powder to highlight the sweetness of fruit with salty and sour taste.

Bestime is characterized by innovation in taste and ingredients. Take the Sakura green apple soda bubble water of its product light steam series as an example, this product adds needle leaf cherry powder and apple powder. Apple powder is usually used in the production of apple juice, rarely directly used in drinks, this kind of fruit and vegetable powder is also good for health. The apple powder extracted from the product can play a role in antioxidation.

This kind of way of relying on the raw materials of other industries to migrate to their own to innovate products is relatively rare in drinks at present.

There is a white strawberry lactic acid bacteria bubble water also uses this “high awareness and scarcity” approach. Strawberry flavored drinks and foods are common on the market, but light snow-white strawberries are rare. On the one hand, the price of this kind of food itself is also expensive, and the general producers are reluctant to use it. On the other hand, the extraction rate of each layer of technology is not high. In terms of taste, white strawberries can be combined with lactic acid bacteria, and prebiotics can also promote the health of intestinal flora, improving the function and taste.

In fact, sports and fitness, skin care and make-up, and diet health, these new consumer areas are all born from the basic needs of eating, drinking, housing and transportation. Therefore, consumers’ cognitive basis, acceptance of new concepts and new products are relatively high, and consumers in first and second tier cities are more familiar with them. If there is taste innovation, we should find the right entry point of differentiation.

Of course, when conveying these concepts, we should also consider being easy to understand. Take a bottle of light milk tea as an example, the brand tells consumers how many calories there are. In fact, we have no actual concept. But if you print on the outer package, I have less fat than a red egg, then others will get it immediately.

From this point of view, the communication mode of innovative thinking and grounding is quite important.

Channel revolution: first up and then down or first down and then up

At the beginning of the year, when Naixue IPO, the industry took out the earliest new tea brands such as Xicha, new brands such as Yuanqi forest and bestime, and traditional beverage giants to study again.

One common problem is that although we can see that these famous brands are doing well, the brands with low customer price such as Michelle ice city are still living well. They have not lost their vitality because of the strong rise of new brands.

There is still a lot of demand in low tier cities, which is also mentioned in Naixue’s prospectus. Whether it’s Xi Cha or Naixue, their sinking channel penetration is not as good as Starbucks, the benchmarking business group in the public perception.


According to Sullivan’s consulting report, as of December 2020, Starbucks has more than 4700 stores in China, covering more than 180 cities, with an average of 26 stores in the city. Even if it looks like a big business, the total number of stores does not exceed 700.

Therefore, for brands with offline retail space, the channel issue to be considered now is whether to go to the first and second tier cities, spread more intensively in the core location, or start to penetrate in the third and fourth tier cities.

The question of upward or downward is the same for the bottled beverage market.

In a previous analysis article on the sugar free bubble water circuit, we have mentioned that the channel is particularly important for FMCG such as food and beverage. Nongfu Shanquan, the new richest man, is a typical example. They have more than 11000 sales staff, accounting for 59.7% of the total number of employees, covering 247 direct customers and 4454 dealers.

Due to the refinement of channels and regional differences, the early domestic soda brands could take the geographical location as the boundary, forming a distinct regional monopoly market. This is also the reason why foreign giants Pepsi and Coca Cola wanted to buy local brands on a large scale when they entered China.

In this way, they no longer have to make great efforts to establish a relationship with local dealers from scratch. Such joint ventures or acquisitions will win points, channels and production lines.

The traditional supermarket convenience channels have been circulating layer upon layer, and the brand side’s profit is actually very limited. Admission fees, logistics and storage fees, ice road fees, shelf fees, and seasonal marketing fees may be less than 10% – 20% for large supermarkets, but sometimes even 30% for convenience stores.

The high price of convenience stores is closely related to the penetration of Internet format. Especially in the core area of the first tier cities, the self-made wine mixing craze of young people in xiaohongshu has begun. How can brands not seize the freezer.

When we look at these new brands, we will find that their channel spreading way is worth studying.

Yuanqi forest is headquartered in Beijing. Around 2018, they first entered the Ka channel of Beijing supermarket, but because the price is more expensive than similar products, the sales volume is not good. Then they responded that this kind of “Japanese style” packaging should start from the audience who can accept the high unit price, and the convenience stores in East China became the preferred choice.

It’s not too difficult for drinks with a unit price of 5-6 yuan to enter the market. What about drinks with a unit price of 8-9 yuan? From the beginning, the inspirational soda of Hankou No.2 factory bypassed the traditional supermarkets and chose the box horse fresh, ole ’boutique and convenience store channels with high customer price. In addition, young people can also see it in some bar menu in Xintiandi, Shanghai and Tianzifang.

Both of these ideas are aimed at young people and high consumer groups, but after more online brands come out, how can new brands play in channels when they enter the market.

Bestime is an example of both hands. On the one hand, in order to reach students, white-collar workers and high-end people, we focused on the coverage of first and second tier cities. At the same time, we focused on 234 tier cities to radiate and 71 prefecture level cities.

Not all the firepower is aimed at Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. It’s a bit like two wings encircling in the art of war. When I was on a business trip in Beijing, I saw them doing activities with fresh food at 711 convenience store in Jiuxianqiao. This kind of place where stars are all around naturally focuses on high-end and young customers.

However, they also stepped up the infiltration of unconventional areas, such as northwest, southwest, South China and central China.

A consumer analyst who has lived in Xi’an for many years told me that the southwest and northwest regions are driven by single point cities. Of course, Chengdu and Xi’an are needless to say, but the consumers in Kunming, Guizhou and other cities have more activities in the province. The rise of a core city can radiate the whole Province, so these are the key points of the sinking region.


As a consumer culture distribution center keen on night market and travel, the presence of Changsha, Xiangtan, Changde and Zhuzhou is the best way to speed up brand recognition and penetration.

Because the consumer groups in these cities are not only local residents, but also young tourists from the first and second tier cities. If consumers drink good drinks in the local area, it is easy to form talks, and form word-of-mouth effect and mass communication in social media.

In Hubei, the key province in Central China, not only Wuhan, but Enshi is also considered by bestimme.

Don’t underestimate these locations, and don’t underestimate these channels. Wuhan along the Yangtze River has created the first high-end snack shop in China, and Changsha is also the base of the second round seed player of new tea drink, Cha Yan Yue se.

For example, the Nongfu mountain spring I mentioned earlier has 2.43 million outlets in China, of which 1.88 million are in the third, fourth and fifth tier cities. New brands, such as bestime, are also doing channel work in the first year or two after entering the market. In only half a year, it has covered 23 provinces and cities, 4 municipalities directly under the central government and 71 prefecture level cities, and the number of terminal outlets is estimated to be more than 150000. This is rare in FMCG industry.

Going back to what I said before, we should not ignore the essence of the industry just because the marketing of the new brands led by Yuanqi forest is very bullish. In the future, the competition of the industry absolutely depends on their channel spreading speed, penetration degree and fine management level of the channel.


Mass marketing or circle marketing?

In fact, if we go deep into the terminal scenes of these new brand products, we will reach a deeper level.

Before that, I lamented that some brands are very smart to seek special channels to produce new contacts with consumers, such as gyms, cinemas and schools full of young people.

This is because the biggest subversion in the scene revolution is to create and meet the needs of consumers before they realize it.

That is to say, in a specific scenario, a consumption demand that has never appeared before starts to be activated. Once consumers accept this demand and form a trend, the next stage is the influx of players from all walks of life, the products begin to iterate rapidly, and the industry is activated.

Where are the young people in the streets of Beijing and Shanghai? School, shopping mall, bar or music festival? Where are their most frequent consumption places and scenes?

Let’s take a look at the high-density gathering places such as music festivals and exhibitions.

Last year, Beijing international pop music week was held at Beizhan theater outside Xizhimen, Beijing. At that time, click Chen 15, Lu xiansen, singer Wang Shenghu and Huacong all went. It’s cold in Beijing in November, but young people are still shaking their heads and dancing in the wind.

Tianjin guitarist Xiao Bao tasted a bottle of light vapor bubble water on booth in the theater, “the feeling of carbon dioxide exploding on the tip of the tongue, with the music, very energetic.”.

Counting strawberry, MIDI and Zhangbei music festivals, the audiences are almost all under the age of 15-34. No matter how old they are, no matter how small they are. My voice is hoarse. I always feel “not cool enough” when I drink white water. When I take a sip of sugar free soda, I still feel like I’m on top of the trend. In the words of Xiao Bao, it’s the soul atmosphere group to drink soda and shout at the same time.

If you have another round of folk songs and funk circles, the new products will naturally become popular. For niche marketing, as long as they can combine the characteristics of the content they are interested in, the effect is quite immediate.

This is because icon with “explicit labels” such as drinks and clothing can easily make people in a circle accept you quickly. What you drink and what you use represents your attitude and aesthetics. Of course, this is also the process of establishing and conveying the brand image in the circle, and the tide flu and brand sense will come into being.

That’s why I think light truck is quite suitable for music week or festival, and it’s this kind of pop music category. If it’s a classical symphony orchestra, you may have to drink some champagne and red wine. Bestinme’s practice is compatible with the product temperament and audience preferences. It is consistent with the strategy of putting the jitter, red book and game in the early days of the tiktok forest. So Xiaobao said that after returning to Tianjin, he began to buy boxes on Taobao.

Mass marketing or circle marketing, cutting-edge new brand or to think clearly. Only when the strength is used on the blade can the game be broken.

the birth of the next Chinese style Suntory

Since the iteration of the beverage market, since Yuanqi forest has become famous for its explosive products, the traditional giants have found that the cutting-edge brands can not be underestimated. Now, every player is ready to keep an eye on the trenches, and at the same time, they are eyeing other people’s backyards.

There is still a huge space for China’s beverage industry. The concentration rate in Japan is more than 80%. It is only Suntory that has become the favorite of the public. It has a place in bubble wine, pure tea, dairy products, fruit tea, coffee and other fields.

Yuanqi forest has such ambition, so do other cutting-edge brands. They started from their respective base camp, and now they have built a not huge but also quite rich product matrix.

Like tea to milk cover tea, fruit tea to the extreme, then also increased like small tea bubble water to enrich the category; Hankou No.2 factory jumped from the best soda line to the field of flavored liquor, followed by oat milk tea; Bestinme has made a healthy incision, from vitamin water and bubble water to light milk tea and light steam flower series, and now has formed a differentiated product line.

The selection of these categories and the construction of product matrix all benefit from the continuous growth of China’s beverage market. Frost & Sullivan report shows that China’s soft drink market will reach 991.4 billion yuan in 2019, and it is expected to reach 1323 billion yuan by 2021, breaking the trillion mark.

By category, the market share of vitamin based functional drinks, fruit juice drinks, protein drinks, carbonated drinks, tea drinks and bottled water is close to 80%. It’s not wrong to choose these six categories to break through. So it seems that bestime’s product line building has been repeatedly weighed.

However, compared with Suntory, a brand with top sales in Asia Pacific, Europe and the United States, I often think that these cutting-edge beverage brands have the advantages of lighter weight and standardization than traditional Chinese food, and they may have the possibility of global expansion.

With the development of bubble water, milk tea and other categories in the new tea market, the future is not only the battle between the new brands and the local giants, but also the game between them and overseas brands.

Author: Li xiaowai; Source: Wu Yiyi (ID: esnql520), reprint authorized. Joining the community: Cherry (wechat: 15240428449); Business cooperation: Amy (wechat: 13701559246). Recommended reading sugar crisis   |  100 billion light food|   2021 the most innovative company in the world   | | |  |  |  Collagen Peptide  |  Daily new walnut stew: Isee trend  |  Editor’s  |  Reader’s   Foodaily daily food works with global business and industry partners to plan foodaily   Fbic2021 global food and beverage Innovation Conference, with the theme of “new food era – digital reconstruction, open incubation and new brand wave”, deeply discusses the “crisis” and “opportunity” of new consumer brand market through three dimensions of “stage of innovative products”, “food Developers Conference” and “top product social circle”, and interprets the innovation opportunities and paths in the next five years, May 19-21, 2021 in Shanghai, we invite you to witness together( Click on the picture to see the details.     
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Who can be China’s “Suntory”?














































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