“Design in China”​ e04 – Saturnbird coffee 三顿半咖啡 – Innovative Instant Coffee

This series of articles named “Design in China” provides a snapshot of new DTC Chinese brands. I’ll review emerging brands in China and outside of China. But all these brands are designed and created from China.

What does going Direct-to-consumer (DTC) mean? Selling direct-to-consumer, commonly referred to as DTC or D2C, means you’re selling your products directly to your end customers. Sellers bypass any third-party retailers, wholesalers, or any other type of middlemen to deliver their products. These DTC brands are leveraging mobile and digital channels that are bypassing traditional sales models.DTC brands are usually sold exclusively online or specialize in a specific product category.

Branding over Sales Performance

China consumption has evolved already. Many start-ups from mainland China experienced new way of purchasing clothes but also electronic accessories and food for years. They’ve already generated high volume of online sales and are now developing more sophisiticated and creative product and online ad campaign to elevate their brand. From a strong product positioning they are creating strong brand to retain existing users and attract new consumers. I’ll comment on the one I found interesting and worth sharing with followers here. #ChineseCulturalConfidence

These brands understand why brands are so important? #为什么要做品牌

“The most important thing really, is this notion that the consumer has changed, and really a lot of retailers are way, way, way behind the curve,” said Paula Rosenblum, co-founder of retail advisory firm RSR Research – source CrunchBase

Coffee is undoubtedly one of the most consumed beverages around the world. In China, the consumption of coffee has been consistently rising. With a whopping 110,000 coffee shops in the country, China’s appetite for coffee is growing, opening export opportunities for coffee-producing nations. Simultaneously, the increasing demand has also given rise to coffee startups.

Saturnbird Coffee has emerged as a popular coffee brand in the country with its award-winning designs and solutions. What started as a coffee shop in 2014 became an innovative idea for instant coffee, with little cups ready to make a cold brew in seconds. It started with a Pour Over Set of instant coffee cups that just needed to be poured in ice water or milk. The cups came in a box with various flavors to choose from. Further on, they introduced new similar products like the Morning Call bag, an overnight brew bag.

Saturnbird Coffee has produced over 300 million cups of coffee as of late 2021. There are multiple factors behind its success. Its trademarked technology, Super Extraction, allows the coffee powder to maintain a fresh flavor. Instant coffee powders are no new feat, but for many coffee lovers, such powders fail to achieve the punch that freshly grounded beans deliver. The company created a solution with its instant cups packed to retain freshness and deliver a taste similar to freshly grounded coffee beans. Aside from their trademarked technology, they have cleverly leveraged emerging marketing avenues such as live streaming. While it’s still emerging in the rest of the world, live stream shopping is incredibly popular in China. According to McKinsey, 10 percent of ecommerce revenue in China comes from live streaming. Specialty coffee makers like Saturnbird Coffee have also taken advantage of live streamers to promote their products, including Li Jiaqi, the most popular live streamer on Taobao.

Saturnbird Coffee’s offering is a first in China, with the only similar offering coming from across its southern border in South East Asia. 3CommasCoffee, based in Malaysia/Singapore, uses a similar freeze-dry method to preserve the coffee’s taste and aroma. Like 3CommaCoffee, which also focuses on sustainability with its recycling program, Saturnbird Coffee also initiated a recycling program where customers can send in their used cups for more coffee or souvenirs.

The company has entered the US with direct-to-consumer sales on its website and on Amazon. With its innovative product, contemporary packaging design, and commitment to recycling, it could do well in the world’s top coffee-consuming nation. Saturnbird Coffee is yet another Chinese company to look out for in the coming years as it expands beyond China. 

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