Soybean milk was first introduced in Hong Kong by Dr. K.S. Lo under the brand name “Vitasoy” in 1940, with an intention to provide consumers with an affordable nutritious and high-protein soymilk drink. Since then, Vitasoy became a well-known household name and is now the flagship product of Vitasoy International Holdings Limited (VIHL), contributing 48% of the company total revenue by categories in fiscal year 2013/2014. With the priority to promote quality of life through a wide range of great-tasting and nutritional products, the company expanded beyond the soy beverage with a wide variety of food & beverages, under the derivative brand name “Vita”.
Vitasoy Soybean Milk (Regular) – Marketing Mix
Vitasoy soybean milk is the preferred brand among local consumers, but it is fast losing its attractiveness. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and health conscious where many are switching out to “Fresh/ Organic” soymilk which are fiercely competed by many rivals. The launched of Low Sugar variant may have helped to slow down its eroding share, but the product has passed the maturity stage.
Instead of rationalizing the existing product line (multiple pack formats, photo below), the company continue to stretch the product line with different pack formats (of recent, the PET packaging). This initiative may potentially lead to cannibalization and causing diseconomies of scales in production.
Targeting the masses with price positioned below most of the “organic” and “non-organic” soymilk products across most channels. With exception to chain convenient stores, its pricing is much higher than most of the “organic” soymilk products.
This conflicting price positioning in chain convenient stores may lead to consumers switching out to “organic” soymilk, which is cheaper, fresher & healthier. As observed (photo below) in 7-Eleven, pack of Vitasoy soybean milk 250ml cost HK$6.90 while pack of Pak Fook 236ml “fresh organic” cost HK$5.80, both at non-promotion price.
Actively engage in promoting its product through several advertising platforms (eg. TV commercial, social media, magazine/ newspapers, billboards & event sponsorships) and conducted many consumer communication campaigns. Noteworthy is their in-store execution particularly in chain supermarket which dominates majority of the shelf-space with prominent product displays and conducted tactical bundle sales regularly.
The recent campaign “Anytime, Anywhere” is seen as a desperate attempt to disassociate itself as “breakfast-only” beverage. The campaign was supported with the launch of PET packaging which is a better proposition for an “all-occasion” beverage. But again, pricing may not be appealing to the target consumers particularly in chain convenient stores which is much costly comparing to other channels.
The product is widely available through their extensive geographical coverage built over the years, reaching out to over 10,000 customers (eg. chain supermarkets & convenience stores, restaurants, bakeries, offices and independent grocery stores) serviced by 300 sales force and 100 delivery trucks. Also leveraging on the company subsidiary – Vitaland, specializing in operation and management of school tuck shops and canteen business, has made the product more accessible particularly among younger consumers. These are the key factors that have helped to strengthen the company leadership in Hong Kong.
In view of the competitive environment and evaluation of the product marketing mix, the recommended growth strategies would be Marketing Penetration & Product Development. Both strategies are least risky and are capable to generate further business growth for Vitasoy in this mature market (Hong Kong)
Vitasoy soybean milk needs to drive off competition and sustain their share in the non-organic soymilk segment via enlarge distribution reach, conduct tactical/ aggressive sales promotions (eg. Discount or bundle sales) and increase share of shelf-space. They need to reinforce barriers to entry in their key strategic channels (ie. chain supermarkets and chain convenient stores), as those are the key market entry channels and key breeding ground for competition. It is also crucial to rationalize their existing product line (multiple pack formats) to achieve economies of scale or prevent production complexity but most critically is to avoid cannibalization. In addition, to ensure the success of the product in PET packaging, it has to be nurtured with more effective marketing efforts with a pricing strategy that will appeal to the masses, specifically in chain convenient stores due to its geographical spread and 24/7.
Vitasoy soybean milk has passed its maturity stage, as consumers continue to be inclined towards beverages with higher nutritional benefits (eg. Organic, high calcium, low sugar & low fat). Nonetheless, the company must continue to protect its leadership in this category as it contributes 48% of the company total revenue. This can be done by leveraging on its reputation as “Soy Expert” and making the competition irrelevant. The company must aggressively take the lead in developing new innovative product with clear product differential verses its rivals, through product line extension of their strategic growth brands (ie. Calci-Plus & Sansui). The new product line has to be innovative nutritious product with relevance to the health trends, this will eventually help to enhance consumer loyalty, gain more shares and potentially attract more switch-in from non-users.
1) Soyinfo center, website www.soyinfocenter.com/HSS/ks_lo_and_vitasoy.php 2) Vitasoy International Holdings, website www.vitasoy.com , www.vitasoy.com/pdf/pressRelease/EN 3) Vitaland Services Limited, website www.vitaland.com.hk
4) Facebook – VitaVitasoy
5) Blog – childhoodsnacks.blogspot.hk
6) EuroMonitor International, website www.euromonitor.com/soft-drinks-in-hong-kong-china/report 7) Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne, 2006 Harvard Business School