Joyce Lam
Joyce is a Senior Trends Analyst at Mintel, focusing on capturing consumer behaviour for the Asia Pacific market, as well as supporting the global Mintel Trends team to identify new consumer trends.

Chinese bubble tea chain HEYTEA has recently opened its first store in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province and home to the popular stinky tofu dish.

Source: Foodaily.com

In celebration of this milestone and Changsha’s culture, HEYTEA has collaborated with the Wen He You Museum of Stinky Tofu (文和友臭豆腐博物馆) to launch a cheesecake that looks just like the stinky tofu dish on the surface, but is, in fact, a lemon coconut pudding cheesecake. HEYTEA has also introduced a novel range of merchandise, including a pair of ‘smelly’ socks that have been making the rounds on social media.

Aside from stinky tofu, HEYTEA Changsha has also expanded its menu to include ice creams that come in authentic Hunan flavours like spicy chilli and dark wine. Furthermore, with mahjong a popular leisure activity among the locals in Changsha, HEYTEA launched a mahjong set that consumers can purchase from the store.

While HEYTEA is a forerunner in China’s crowded bubble tea market, it is not immune to new competition. From its retro store design and localised menu to quirky merchandise range, HEYTEA’s branch in Changsha lives and breathes the local culture which resonates well with local consumers—an important factor for the brand’s success in the capital city of Hunan province.

This isn’t the first time HEYTEA has incorporated localisation into its strategy; its flagship store in Chengdu comprises of five concept labs where customers can try experimental, limited edition products that centre around local Sichuan flavours.

To stand out from the competition and gain a solid foothold in new markets, it is imperative for brands to create conversation starters that emotionally connect with their consumers. This is discussed in Mintel Trend ‘Sense of the Intense’ which highlights how intense physical and sensory experiences give life, brands and products deeper meaning.

In fact, we are seeing more and more brands starting to immerse themselves in local cultures and support local communities, making it part of their branding, product, design or communications strategies.

What we think

Thanks to its regional diversity, China is an exciting market for food products and services. Drawing inspiration from these regional nuances will help brands develop compelling offerings that resonate with consumers and evoke memories, all while staying relevant to their modern lives. Brands that are creative with their product line-up will sit well with young Chinese consumers, particularly the post-00s generation, who, according to Mintel research, are experimental and easily attracted to exotic flavours and creative product combinations.