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Why china has gone nuts for weetbix

IN a line-up of Aussie breakfast favourite Weet-Bix’s past brand ambassadors, the iconic brand’s latest marketing recruit would stick out like a sore thumb.

She doesnt have the sporting prowess of the heroes that past Weet-Bix kids have idolised and followed in their breakfast choices, and shed be hard-pressed to down the seven dense cakes of shredded wheat that cricketer Brett Lee claimed to consume each morning during his time as a face of the brand, or football superstar Tim Cahills nine.

The latest face of the product is Taiwanese-Chinese reality TV star and supermum Alyssa Chia.

Though shell be unrecognisable to most of Weet-Bixs traditional target market Aussies kids Ms Chias association with the brand is part of Sanitariums newly announced massive expansion into the Chinese market, and part of the reason China is going crazy for Weet-Bix.

Sanitarium has been selling its products, including the Aussie breakfast classic Weet-Bix, into China for the past eight years but its only in the past two to three years theyve really started focusing on the market. Today Sanitarium announced a huge Chinese expansion strategy as it focus on the recent surge in Chinese demand for cereals, for which the brand is partly responsible.

Earlier this year, a tip from a local distributor led to the single most profitable move the food company has made in its international strategy.

It was a product placement in a popular Chinese drama program called Ode to Joy, and the reaction sent sales through the roof.

When one of the dramas lead characters expressed their love for the flaky wheat cakes on the program during an episode that aired in May, demand shot up in a way Sanitarium had never anticipated.

It probably caught us a little bit on the hop, Sanitariums international marketing manager Mark Roper told

We literally got a spike in demand and we saw our financial year to June, our financial sales up over 50 per cent in China, and a lot of that was driven in the last quarter from that TV show. That demand has continued and were confident we will achieve a similar growth in the year ahead.

The reaction to the introduction of Weet-Bix into Ode to Joys storyline was insane.

Sanitariums e-commerce channels were swamped by celebrity-obsessed Chinese customers. Stores that stocked the cereal in China were raided, and here in Australia, supermarket shelves were stripped of stock as private online sellers or daigou scrambled to ship the local product to Chinese customers with massive mark-ups.

Mr Roper said Sanitarium experienced a spike in demand across all of their channels.

We got an increase in demand from every source. Our traditional bricks and mortar stores wanting more stock, our e-commerce channels were needing more and we had a lot of traders, a lot of daigou looking to get stock so we saw supermarket sales lift, basically demand was increased in all the different ways to sell products to China, he said.

Although Weet-bix has had huge success from celebrity endorsements in the past, from test cricketers to reality TV stars (think Bachelor couple Sam and Snezana have signed on as brand ambassadors), the products appearance in front of an audience of more than 100 million on the popular Chinese TV program was beyond the scale of any marketing exercises theyd seen back home.

But Weet-Bix is hoping the success they had from the Ode to Joy product placement is only the beginning.

Through partnering with Ms Chia, the brand plans to harness the stars millions of social media followers and fans of her reality TV show.

Ms Chia, 42, is a mother to two (with a third on the way), who has established an image as a super healthy supermum.

On the reality TV show that tracks her and her familys daily life, shes portrayed as a very fit, nutrition-focused, healthy parent. Its sort of like what you might imagine happening if Michelle Bridges starred a Kardashian-style reality show.

Sanitarium, and other Australian and New Zealand health food brands like Manuka Health and Thursday Plantation, have latched on to the Chinese megastars influence and recruited her as the Chinese face of their products.

At an exclusive event in Sydney on Tuesday, Ms Chia told a crowd of Australian health food industry folk and local daigou about her enthusiasm for the deal, as they rubbed their hands together anticipating the demand her endorsement would create for Australian products.

She told the crowd, through a translator, that Australian products had a reputation of being very nutritious and safe, and that she would enthusiastically promote the brands that had brought her on board.

Also at the event, Sanitariums General Manager Todd Saunders hinted the company had only just begun its takeover of the Chinese market.

To comply with strict branding restrictions being introduced in China, Sanitarium has announced the launch of its international product, Nutri-Brex, to be marketed in China. Its only different in name, and so Sanitarium expects its sales will follow the success theyve had with the existing product.

Different to the iconic Weet-Bix product in name only, Nutri-Brex is made in the same factories, using the same ingredients and the same traditional recipe that Sanitarium has used for almost 90 years. Its the same name that we use for Weet-Bix in the UK, our second biggest export market, he said.

Despite the recent success weve enjoyed, it is still relatively early days for Sanitarium in China. Data suggests about 15 per cent of Chinese households make a regular breakfast cereal purchase, compared to 90 per cent of Australian households. Thats why the timing to change brand names while Chinese consumer awareness of Weet-Bix is at its highest actually works.

Nutri-Brex will be heavily marketed in more than 1500 stores across China and through online sales, focusing on Ali Babas massive TMall platform which currently accounts for more than half of sales of Sanitariums products in China.

Its one of the latest brands to take advantage of Australias good reputation for producing quality, safe, food and other goods, and popularity among the hugely profitable Chinese market.

Speaking at the Sydney event, Ali Babas John OLoghlen said Australian companies were among the biggest exporters to China via the popular e-commerce platform. He said it was partly thanks to the Australias lifestyle and reputation for quality products.

In Australia and New Zealand this is a very unique phenomenon we dont see (in other countries), he said.

Australia and New Zealand is a top five ranking across all the platforms in the Ali Baba group, even ahead of all the countries in Europe.

These brands that have borne out of the society and the lifestyle and the great entrepreneurial spirit and the companies down here, they are very very very prominent vis a vis other markets.

The classic commercial for Weet Bix featuring the music jingle Aussie kids are Weet Bix kids

Woolworths apologises for yelling at mum

WOOLWORTHS has been slammed after an employee allegedly yelled at a pregnant mother whose two young children were “being cheeky”.

Melbourne woman Nancy Iemma, 30, complained to the supermarket about the treatment her sister received at the Moonee Ponds store on Sunday.

Ms Iemma said her two nieces, aged three and one-and-a-half, were being cheeky as children usually are, running around picking up items and throwing them into the trolley or just picking up items and throwing them on the ground.

We both were aware and trying to pick up after them, she posted to Woolworths Facebook page. It was difficult as they were also running around being cheeky, as I said kids usually are, its their nature.

Ms Iemma said an employee then confronted her sister, telling her, Your kids are making so much mess and throwing things everywhere! You should clean up after them!, leaving her sister in shock.

Yes, they were being cheeky but to be approached like they was absolutely out of line, she wrote. After her sister asked for the manager, she said another employee defended the first one, embarrassing her in front of another customer.

She said the second employee being very rude ... butting in and trying to tell us off even as they were discussing the incident with the manager. What kind of customer service is this, Woolworths? What on earth, she wrote.

We then proceeded to the checkout and left the store in disgust. We have been shopping at Woolworths for a very long time, we are just doing our Sunday night shopping how dare your employee make us feel so uncomfortable in the store?

Kids are kids, they are going to be cheeky. We chose to spend money in your store, we did not appreciate the customer service to be that disgusting.

Ms Iemma told it was important that a mother can walk into a store and be able to do her Sunday night shopping and feel supported.

It is not right that a female to female did not understand and chose to yell at her, she said. They should have recognised that her hands were full, she is heavily pregnant and she had two young children running around and it is hard that was the reason I was, there to help her shop.

There are many ways to approach a situation. If we were approached with good manners then [it would be a] different story, but the employee scolded my sister and said she had three of her own kids and can handle [them] better.

Ms Iemma said large organisations like Woolworths needed to get the message that customer service is a total experience, not just there to buy goods and leave.

In a statement, a Woolworths spokesman said the company apologises for the unacceptable behaviour the customer received in our store.

We expect our staff members to provide the best experience for our customers by helping out and assisting with their grocery shop in any way possible, he said.

However, on some occasions we may not reach the high standards we set. We are currently reaching out to the affected customer to discuss her poor treatment and any requests she might have.