Transcript: Whittaker's Chocolate Case Study
Matt Whittaker: My great grandfather, James Henry, started the business in 1896. We’re a beans-to-bar chocolate company, which enables us to control the quality of the chocolate. We export to over 20 countries and our current focus is China and North America. We have a lot of enquiries through China on a daily basis, so it’s hard to filter out the noise from the really good enquiries, so NZTE enabled us to identify the right partners and market that we could work with.
Sarah Sherriff: I guess we didn’t have enough understanding of the market to be able to match up what the consumer needed with the way we like to work and which of those partners would be ideal for us. So, we needed help and understanding through the details of the market. Our NZTE Manager, Robbie Nagasamy, introduced me to the Business Development Manager for China, Mike Arand, and they were doing a program called Accelerate China, which gave us the opportunity to go into market and have a fully immersive experience for a whole week, learning all about Chinese consumers, about the structure and compliance requirements and what we would need to be successful in China.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise set up some workshops with beachhead advisors so that it helped us focus the learning we needed to get out of the trip and we came up with three key challenges. We needed to understand the chocolate occasions for a consumer in China. We needed to understand where they bought it and when they bought chocolate and then finally what was it from Whittaker’s brand proposition that would resonate with the Chinese consumer. The trip was just a huge education for me, so it was seven days immersive. We went shopping with consumers. We went into their homes. We met potential distributors. We met the biggest e-commerce players. What it showed to me is that the opportunity was absolutely massive for us in China and that we really needed to get our strategy organised so that we could meet the opportunity.
Matt Whittaker: Our strategy is to execute a cohesive omnichannel approach to the Chinese consumer, so, it doesn’t matter where they buy our products, the brand experience is the same. NZTE is a resource to help us develop that strategy. It just enabled us to speed the whole process up.
Sarah Sherriff: Interestingly, we found we didn’t have to alter our products for the Chinese market because consumers there like to buy the same as what a New Zealand consumer would buy. The only thing we have had to do is put a little white sticker on the back with Chinese language requirements and that actually adds some value because it shows that it’s an imported product from a country with good food safety standards.
Matt Whittaker: NZTE enabled us to fast track our China strategy.