Looking South Episode #18 – SMEs – Cheng En

In this week’s installment of Looking South, Eric Gau chats with Cheng En Food Product Enterprise Company Marketing Manager Vincent Liu about his company’s experience in the Southeast Asian market.

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Transcript below:

Eric Gau: Good morning. I’m Eric Gau, and you are listening to Looking South on ICRT. In this program, we examine the effects of the central government’s New Southbound Policy, with our current focus on Taiwan’s small and medium enterprises. Today, we are joined by Cheng En Food Product Enterprise Company Marketing Manager, Mr. Vincent Liu. Mr. Liu, good morning, and welcome to ICRT.

Vincent Liu: Hello, good morning everyone. This is Vincent Liu.

Eric: Mr. Liu, why don’t you begin by introducing your company to our listeners so they know a little bit about your focus and your operations?

Vincent: We are Cheng En Food Material supplier since 1983 in Taipei, Zhonghe District. We provide the total solution to open bubble tea shops in the world. We provide the raw materials of bubble tea like tapioca boba, tea leaves, juice concentrate, and we provide the training course and assist overseas customers to create their dream business. Our main customers are direct stores, chain stores of bubble tea brand or raw material suppliers who people would like to sale raw material like us.

Eric: So what led you to expand into the Southeast Asian market, and which countries did you target at first?

Vincent: Our target is the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam because these countries meet some reasons. Southeast Asian is the best market for Taiwan Bubble Tea, there are three reasons. First reason is the weather. Southeast Asia has a high temperature throughout the year suitable for the development of the bubble tea industry. Second, Southeast Asian population, diet, culture is similar with Taiwanese. Third, due to the vigorous economic development, the promotion for the business motivation will help the development of bubble tea.

Eric: What kind of support did you get from the government as you were expanding into those markets that you just mentioned?

Vincent: New Southbound Policy, TAITRA support the allowance to help us to expend the bubble tea culture by the food exhibition and provide the bubble tea theme in the exhibition. Also, TAITRA help to established bubble tea alliance to strengthen industry linkage. It is very helpful to every supplier in the alliance to communicate with each other. Due to the government’s emphasis and support, it has driven Taiwan media reports, which has increased Taiwan’s emphasis on bubble tea, and has strengthened the willingness of overseas Chinese people to invest funds to promote Taiwan bubble tea.

Eric: Mr. Liu, What were some of the biggest challenges that you encountered as you entered these countries?

Vincent: There are no challenges to expand the bubble tea culture, anything we meet is gift. Everything we face is new and surprising. Because we export to many countries, we must comply with the import regulations of every country, just like passing through each level with game. For each country, the rules and transaction models depend on the accumulation of time and experience. As regulations are changed, it is necessary to contact customers at any time and adjust the business direction. Of course, the process will not always be smooth, and we also need to pay a lot of money to learn these experience, which is sometimes inevitable.

Eric: How did you overcome those challenges, or these gifts, as you put it?

Vincent: Whenever we encounter a challenge, I think it is bound to happen, so I will focus on the problem and deal with it, looking for any resources and possible solutions. We understand market and industry information through many channels, so that we have enough information to solve the problems we want to solve. Sometimes this is not our company can overcome alone. At this time, we must cooperate with manufacturers and partners in the industry and seek government resources and help.

Eric: In your experience, how has doing business in those countries differed from what you’re used to back here in Taiwan?

Vincent: Every country will have different regulations, cultures and eating habits. These are not understandable on the surface and must be contacted with local customers for a period of time to understand. For example, the Southeast Asian market has no habit of saving. They like to spend a lot of money when they are paid, and it is very necessary to plan some promotional programs or some activity to push them to buy it.

Eric: Mr. Liu, what are your plans for the future in Southeast Asia?

Vincent: For the future, we are going to expend to India, Cambodia because the climates and culture of these countries are suitable for the promotion of bubble tea. We will visit these countries in cooperation with TATRA and promote Taiwan bubble tea in exhibitions in these countries. If there is an opportunity, we can set up a branch in Southeast Asia to take care of Southeast Asian customers nearby.

Eric: Is there anything you wished you knew before you started expanding overseas? And what lessons would you pass on to other companies that have yet to take that step?

Vincent: I will first learn about their eating habits and cooperation mode through the exhibition, and then go forward to expand the market. Then further understand the consumer’s life habits and taste changes, and continue to develop different flavors of bubble tea to meet consumer needs. To keep the excitement of expanding the international market, the differences between countries are very interesting. It is a very meaningful thing to travel around the world through operating companies. That anything happens is inevitable. We cannot predict what will happen. When a problem happens, we will be able to gain the market advantage by facing the problem. In addition, you must have enough confidence in the industry you are operating in, believe that the products produced in Taiwan are a guarantee of quality, and hold a long-term cooperation partner for your customers.

Eric: We’ve been chatting with Vincent Liu, the Marketing Manager of Cheng En Food Product Enterprise Company, about his company’s forays into the Southeast Asian market under the New Southbound Policy. Mr. Liu, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.

Vincent: Thank you so much, have a good day.

Eric: And that’s it for this week’s installment of Looking South. Join us again next week for yet another look at how small and medium enterprises are faring under the New Southbound Policy. Until them, I’m Eric Gau, and thank you for tuning in.

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