Saturday, January 12, 2013

The incredible success of Yakult in China

Yakult is a yogourt created by Japanese containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota.
In 2007 I showed this product to my wife and several Chinese people. Very few knew this product at this time in China!
Today Yakult holds a core position in the supermarket yogourt section. Back in 2007 there was only a tiny row of Yakult in Wall-Mart and Carrefour.

Nowadays we find in China 3 different type of yogourt:

  1. Yakult
  2. Liquid yogourt similar to Yop yogourt
  3. A few less liquid yogourt
The choice is therefore very limited.

How to explain Yakult success?

Even though the unit price is high (and even very high) Yakult sells very well. How to explain the success of this product?

  • The small format is adapted to Chinese customers and children
  • The yogourt is very light, even lighter than "yop"
  • The yogourt eases stomache ache and helps digestion
  • The taste is special and pleases Chinese consumers
11 yuan: it is a lot uf you consider the quantity. But Chinese consumers will look at the number of dose and not the quantity in ml!

Mengniu Chinese copy
Attracted by this success, Chinese brands try to copy the Japanese product Yakult. Copies are still far away from the original in term of product quality. But Chinese customers might not feel this way?

Here we have one product developped by Mengniu (One Chinese main company for milk products. It is responsible for the incident of Melanie contaminated milk).
It simply copied Yakult packaging and changed the color: blue instead of red!
Surprisingly the price of the blue copies is even higher than Yakult price! 11,90 vs 11,50. The Chinese multinational makes customers try its products for free in the supermarket.

Mengniu also developped a new bottle format. I am dubious about it: why offer a large quantity as you can not drink that much in one time and you will feel disgust? And the price is of course much higher. Furthermore Yakult yogourt aim  children after a meal or for a snack. He won't be able to drink this. This bottle can be used as a family format. But families in China only have one child... I simply don't understand the strategy behind this format.
Mengniu imagined a yakult with green tea flavour: very clever...

I tried for you:
Yakult cap opens easily. This xxxxxx copy doesn't open: I try to but it is hell! The packaging is not well conceived. And Chinese people are accustomed not to open the cap but to drink the yogourt while using a straw. Even though you don't get any straw when you buy this blue Yakult. This is really annoying: dirty and not convenient.

The plastic from the blue Yakult copy is thick and not recycled. Environment doesn't matter just costs.
The plastic packaging suddenly breaks and the yogourt fall on the floor!
While Yakult plastic packaging opens easily and you can open it one at the time. Yogourts stay under the plastic cover. I can take them one at the time.
Not to mention that the plastic used by Yakult is less thick and recycled plastic.

Yakult traffic from Hong Kong to mainland China
I saw at the border Hong Kong to mainland China an important traffic of Yakult yogourt: local Hong Kong resident cross the border and carry with them lot of Yakult. They can avoid the tax.
Does this means that Yakult sold in China are produced abroad? Or maybe some Yakult the one we find in Hong Kong are imported with limited or no taxes since it is Hong Kong while the one we find in mainland China are produced in mainland China?

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