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Executive Chairman Gary Loh

Singapore: SunMoon shares its strategy for global branding

The Singapore-based company SunMoon aims to establish itself as a global brand. The strategy to do this has been implemented under the guidance of Executive Chairman Gary Loh. “When I became active for SunMoon, we changed the full value chain of SunMoon. We abandoned plantations and started working with growers with an emphasis on the type of brand we were working. We started selling through different channels in the country. We also started to market our brand in South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the US and South-Korea.”

SunMoon was founded as a family company in 1977. Around 2007, the company ran into financial distress, at which point former banker Gary Loh came in. Loh restructured the company to become more consumer-centric. “We needed to be able to communicate with the consumer at the end of the value chain. In this sense, working with the Chinese market through Yiguo is a dream come true.”

Shanghai Yiguo, a Chinese e-commerce giant has taken a 51% interest in the company. Loh states that in practice the two companies will function as equal partners. “Yiguo recognized how SunMoon was focusing on developing itself as a brand,” says Loh enthusiastically.

Loh uses the analogy of a dragon to describe the transition of SunMoon. “The previous group that developed the company wanted to be a single dragon. But this dragon couldn’t pump enough blood to the tail end of the dragon to let the blood go back to its head. In other words, there was a cash flow problem. Our new strategy meant that we’d shift focus towards the consumer.”
To this end, SunMoon decided to do away with their own plantations, working with packhouses and focusing on what the consumer wants. “You’ve got to understand how the consumer really thinks. We’ve managed to achieve just that by getting in touch with the right partners.”

While every company aims to secure the best produce, Loh says this isn’t always possible. “Everyone wants the best produce, so not everyone will be able to do so. Instead, we worked on ways to add value, such as through processing, freeze drying, using produce for juice, and marketing odd sizes.”
Loh says that the market of SunMoon isn’t limited to only China, but covers all of SouthEast Asia as well. “Middle class consumers are growing in importance. There are now more affluent consumers who are becoming increasingly more health conscious. Through the internet and social media, they are becoming aware of trends in produce, such as avocados or kale.”
SunMoon provides information for consumers through both online and offline channels such as social media and retailers on promotion campaigns. For example, the company has been promoting Chilean grapes and Mexican avocados. The consumers learn about these products by marketing at retail level. SunMoon believes that they bring the growers to the consumers.

“Once consumers get wealthier, they eat less meat and focus more on fruit and organics. We try to cater to these trends. However, we also cater to consumers with less income. By working with simpler and cheaper packaging, we can also provide produce in the lower segments of the market. We use different retail channels to appeal to different consumers. Providing good quality doesn’t need to be expensive,” explains Loh.
SunMoon also wants to make sure that growers’ produce doesn’t go to waste. They try to sell everything, nothing should go to waste. For this purpose, SunMoon started working with new technology, such as systems for traceability. “We collect all data into centralized hubs and share our information. Through this process, we address the concerns of both growers getting properly paid and consumers getting their hands on proper produce.”

The current rise in demand for organics has also caught the eye of SunMoon. “We’re still rather new at organic produce, but we know the necessary requirements. Organic produce is a lot more expensive, so it still holds only a small part of the market, but we’re looking into it. Next year, we’re going to market organic apples in New Zealand. New Zealand consumers are very keen on organic produce, so this market works well as a basis for future development.”

Road to success 
Gary Loh defines the philosophy behind SunMoon with the formula N x G x P. “Network times geography times product equals the SunMoon model. In order to achieve success, we needed capital investments and ways to get our brand through the proper channels. In short, the stars needed to be aligned with the moon and the sun. In the end, we all cater to the stars, e.g. the consumers.”
Apart from Yiguo, SunMoon is also working with partners in Middle Eastern markets, such as Lulu and Carrefour. They supply oranges, ginger, garlic and onions to these retail chains. Loh believes that the Middle East is a great market and having such partners is a good testimony of the strength of their brand.

As the new partnership with Yiguo takes form, you’d think that big changes are imminent. However, Gary Loh doesn’t think that the operations will be subject to change. “We’ll continue doing what we do now. We want to become a global brand that caters to Western customers. Yiguo shares our goals, so in this sense there won’t be much change. In general there isn’t really a large brand in South East Asia, like there is in the west with brands like Del Monte. SunMoon is the closest you’ll find. We’re being called the largest brand of Asia.”
Becoming the biggest brand in the Asian market brings along with it certain responsibilities. Expectations are high as well. “Throughout the whole journey, technology plays a big part. We’ve implemented technologies like control rooms in storage areas, optical scanning systems, etc. We’re now able to check up on even the smallest box. We’re also working on big data analysis, but our approach is different than other large companies. For instance, when a company like Nokia claims that everyone wants a phone, they don’t actually listen to consumers. They just go on what they learn from big data statistics. We on the other hand analyze our data and at the same time try to listen to our consumers.”
This consumer-centric attitude also permeates other aspects of the company. “Everyone in our workforce has the same vision. I sometimes like to joke about it: I’m King Arthur in my castle. But my castle exists only because I’ve surrounded myself with knights that are much more powerful than me. We’re united as a group. As long as all the various knights have the same vision, we’re all responsible for maintaining the brand. It’s not just my brand, but also the brand of our staff members, our growers and even our consumers. I think that this attitude is a little different from other brand owners.”

For more information:
Amy Teo
SunMoon (Singapore)
Tel: 0065-6779-5688
Mob: 0065-8299-9469
Author: Peter Duivenvoorde / Yzza Ibrahim

Publication date: 9/22/2017
Author: Yzza Ibrahim
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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