Malaysian bubble tea company Tealive to open 10 stores in China

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SHANGHAI (Feb 24): Malaysia’s homegrown bubble tea brand, Tealive, is stepping up its presence in China this year with the proposed establishment of 10 corporate stores in the world’s largest tea consumer market.

Loob Holding Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Bryan Loo said the move was to allow Tealive to gain a strong footprint in China through franchising as it aimed to open 500 stores within three years.

In June 2018, Loob Holding announced its plan to venture into China when it officially sealed a joint-venture agreement with partners in China -- Zhejiang Boduo International Trade Co Ltd and Shanghai Panfei International Trade Co Ltd.

"In this country, investments are high, we would like to keep it as an asset-light mode, something like McDonalds and KFC, where we franchise out most of our stores in China.

"So, before we franchise outlets, we will first set up corporate stores to test and prove the model works, then only we will explore (the potential of) local entrepreneurs (franchisees) in China," he told Malaysian journalists after the official launch of its first store in Shanghai by Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

The store, which opened in November 2018, received tremendous response with overwhelming demand for durian-flavoured tea base products followed by other Malaysian flavours like cempedak, gula melaka, Bentong ginger and Sabah-origin tea.

Loo said Tealive would also make available food products to support its expansion by bringing in, among others, the famous ‘Seremban Lucky King’ buns.

The products will be introduced at its Hangzhou store, its second outlet, which would open in two months.

"So, what we are trying to feature and promote is not only Malaysian ingredients but also the Malaysian culture," he said, adding that it was also looking to soon introduce Cameron Highland tea base products in the Chinese market.

Besides China, Loo said Tealive was also busy preparing for its first venture into India and the United Kingdom.

Tealive has appointed a master franchisee in India and stores would be opening there in the coming months.

Currently, the brand has about 220 outlets in Malaysia, six in Vietnam and two in Australia.

Tealive, he said wad also planning on a strong presence in ASEAN.

"The ASEAN market is definitely one of the biggest catchment area because its member countries share similar culture.

"As for markets like Indonesia and Thailand, we want to reserve our plans first as these are big markets and require more time to draw up (marketing) strategies," he explained.

The bubble tea player was also in the midst of setting up a tapioca pearl production plant in Klang.

"Leveraging on the technical expertise of our joint venture partner from China, which is the largest food and beverage raw manufacturer in China, we plan to manufacture our own tapioca pearl and export the ingredient to ASEAN," he said.

Meanwhile, Saifuddin, who is here on a three-day working visit to the Zhejiang Province, said the government was very keen to see more Malaysian franchise brands venture abroad like Tealive.

"The ministry promises to support, guide and pave the way for franchise entrepreneurs from Malaysia to emulate the steps taken by Tealive which proves Malaysian brands have their own strengths," he said.

Saifuddin said the Ministry had allocated RM20 million to promote the products of local small and medium enterprises, domestically and internationally.

"Five to six promotion programmes have been lined up for this year. Besides China, we will visit Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia, among others," he added.