1. Hong Kong Made Products
Consumers are a lot more savvy than they used to be; a lot more. If you had informed us even three years ago that there would be a major wave of food businesses and restaurants who would focus on locally sourced, farm-to-table type cuisine, we would have let out an audible snicker and then asked you to leave. Now, we’re literally eating our words. From popcorn popped in the mid-levels, to Tai Tai Pie Pie (taitaipiepies.com) who make all their scrumptious homemade style pies here in their factory in Fo Tan, New Territories, to raw food virtuosos nood food (allnood.com) who have their kitchen in Chai Wan, people are cluing up to the needlessness of flying foods across the globe. Food wasn’t meant to fly (unless it’s a duck; in which case, it was definitely meant to fly).
2. Natural Products
There has been a monumental effort to cut out preservatives, artificial flavourings and words we don’t know how to pronounce in the ingredients list. The Internet is a tool that has generated a great swarm of quasi-food-scientists who meticulously inspect their labels before purchase. When caramel colours, maltodextrin and inulin rear their somewhat ambiguous heads, people are less inclined to waltz to the checkout with chocolate in hand. Comparatively, when the key ingredient listed is Hokkaido milk, brown sugar, almonds and organic white grapefruit extract, there is significant more appeal. Bom Carma (bomcarma.com), organic soda company from New Zealand, for example constantly tout that they only use “REAL ingredients”, and it is methodology that now has them stocked everywhere from Oliver’s Sandwiches to the Hong Kong International Airport.
3. Hong Kong Tailored Products
Start-ups are small, at the beginning anyway, and therefore maintain a connection-driven enterprise, seeking to grow relationship with their clients rather than see them as the cash cows. When RJ of Tai Tai Pie Pie could find no artisanal, authentically homemade pies in Hong Kong, he forsook his life in marketing and got stuck into making some truly delectable pastries. Not wanting pie that tastes like it is from a can (and actually was, in fact, from a can), but being unable to find one, he made it himself, for the people of Hong Kong.
4. Pioneering Products
A sharp eye for gaps in the market and the willingness to see such ideas through has proved to be a winning combination for many start-ups in 2014. The local fellows of Cloud Candy (hkhandmade.com), a Hokkaido milk candy company are one such example. After eating candies of a similar nature in nations such as Japan, Taiwan and France, and not finding good quality products here in the Pearl, they decided to do it themselves and do it fabulously! Sourcing their milk from Hokkaido and keeping it free from anything artificial, they have a delicious velvety sweet that is addictive in the most natural sense. noodfood did a similar thing in their ‘raw organic area’, when they noted that health foods in Hong Kong have sat in the margins for years, with people thinking it’s either too expensive or too complicated to understand. They have a vision to simplify, and to undress the concept of healthy eating. A confluence of honesty, observation, and uniqueness is what entrepreneurs conjure to meet needs in untapped markets.
5. Expensive Products
Economies of scale mean cheaper costs for the buyer, but the boutique products means price tags that matches the efforts expended. The first stages of artisanal manufacturing mean small scale, high quality, localized and expensive. But what’s utterly wonderful is the response to said price; consumers want the best, and they’re willing to pay for it, especially in this city. High wages and subsequent time poverty mean that sophisticated palates aren’t willing to compromise on flavour, but simply don’t have the minutes that are required to make one’s own hazelnut coffee crème to throw on a crepe for Sunday morning brunch (another of Hong Kong’s obsessions). Companies like Piazza Grande aid in these matters, linking Hong Kong foodies to small Italian producers. Buying jam from Matteo will be far more costly than buying a Fusion alternative, but the difference in product is tangible, and worth the added disbursement.
6. Unconventionally Distributed Products
Not only need companies come up with totally innovative and enchanting products, but distribution paths have morphed drastically and there needs to be more lateral thinking employed when considering how to get the goods to the end user. A hugely alluring duo is the delivery and the marketplace. Companies like Foodpanda have been doing exceptionally well with their model of partnering with local restaurants to deliver food within the hour. The whole system is online and has a live chat messaging service in case anything goes wrong. PMQ in Sheung Wan has also seen huge traction with the local community; with thousands flocking to the hip expanse to see what boutique items are on offer. Digital and social media marketing is key within these trends, as is Instagram, and those who know how to utilize it are proving far more effective with mass communities than detached, non-interactive mediums.
A prediction more than a trend; people love to quantify. If the approach a start-up can take is that of paleo, vegan, gluten-free, Hokkaido, organic, locally sourced, Venetian Bacaro, alkaline, New Nordic and any of the other trends that have taken off in other big urban areas, you can bet the same will be happening in Hong Kong really soon as well. Niches are appreciated as consumers are drawn to concepts where the decision is made for them, or advised, rather than a plethora of options that boggles the mind. Also, anything that involves kale, quinoa or chia seeds…
Together the trend of heightened artisanal product demands, greater accessibility and hyper-connectivity means the plea for better food options in Hong Kong has risen to newfangled levels. The huge plus is it means a fertile soil for the seeds of food-related start-ups in the Pearl of the Orient.