Update – Jun 2016
My original review below has been updated with a number of recent developments. Unless the recent brand relaunch and new products can deliver a significant improvement in total Five Tastes brand sales, my prediction is that the brand will be scaled back to a couple of key SKU’s with no promotional support. Furthermore Five Tastes is likely to go the same way as Asia@Home within 1 – 2 years and ultimately be removed from sale.
Five Tastes review
Five Tastes is a new brand entry into the Asian section of the International Shelf Stable Foods category. Owned by Simplot Australia, it is a range of Thai and Malaysian Meal Kits, Pastes and Cooking Sauces.
Five Tastes relate to the balance of the five essential tastes of Asian (predominantly Thai) cuisine: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savoury or umami.
Here are some of the things they are doing very well.
Their objective has been to create a modern and contemporary food brand that can span across all Asian cuisines. I think they have succeeded in this. The brand name and rationale communicate a message of great tasting high quality Asian food without over promising on authenticity. (Aside from the unfortunate brand story introduction on their website that mentions the word authentic 3 times in the space of a couple of lines….). Authentic is such a bastardised word these days that it has lost a lot of it’s meaning.
The brand logo and colours communicate a clean premium look, as well as good food values, together with the fact that it is Asian. It doesn’t look too ethnic or unfamiliar, nor does it give an expectation that the products will be extremely hot or strong flavoured. It is likely to stand out well on the shelf in supermarkets.
It should also appeal to it’s primary target audience of young adults or couples who have travelled to Asia and want to recreate those flavours at home. They don’t have the time, the ingredients at hand or the cooking know how to create these meals from scratch at home. They still want to feel as though they are cooking themselves. The pastes and cooking sauces allow them to still add their own ingredients and personal touches to their cooking when they have more time. At other times, they have the meal kits.
Five Tastes are unlikely to be targeting families with young children, recent immigrants/students or highly confident cooks who will likely cook from scratch or only use ethnic brands.
Brands such as Maggi, Continental, Chicken Tonight and Kantong would be the brands of choice for the former. In contrast, the latter would favour ethnic brands including Mae Ploy, Ayam and Yeo’s.
2. Content marketing
Five Tastes have created a range of content that meet virtually all the requirements to be classified as good content marketing.
They have created an interesting and engaging series of videos posted on their website, Facebook page and YouTube channel. They send a series of couples to Thailand to undergo a challenge and cook a specific dish for the locals using Five Tastes. A series of follow up recipe videos have also been posted.
Whilst this is not an original concept, it is executed very well. The tone of the videos are spot on. The couples have fun, give a bit of an insight into Thai culture whilst managing to appear to satisfy local tastes with their cooking. Again this without trying to tell Thai locals that it is an authentic dish and take themselves too seriously.
This is clearly contributing to the impressive engagement numbers on their Facebook Page. Over 20% of their Facebook followers are talking about the brand. You would expect this number to a bit higher for a completely new brand launch.
Contrast this approach, with that of the new campaign by Mission Foods below. Despite what the ad says, clearly you do have to go to Mexico to get authentic Mexican Food. Hmm….
3. Recipe ideas
Five Tastes have also taken a different approach to recipe ideas. Eliminating the chef talking head, this is just a great example of telling a visual story in a very easy to follow manner.
I wish Simplot every success with the launch of Five Tastes.
However, there are a number of challenges that the brand will face. These include:
The shelf stable Asian foods category is cluttered with many well established brands. Other key competitive brands include: Thai Gourmet, Asian Home Gourmet, Trident and Valcom. The most direct competitor is another contemporary Asian food brand, Marion’s Kitchen. They all sell Green and Red Thai Curry Paste for example.
Marion is an ex-contestant of the second series of Masterchef in 2010. Marion’s Kitchen is a range of Thai, Malaysian and other Asian Food meal kits launched in 2011. Since that time, Marion has accumulated 49,679 Likes on Facebook and has 18,987 Twitter followers. She has also released her own cook book, as well as starred in her own TV series, Marion’s Thailand.
By comparison her engagement rate on Facebook is relatively low with currently only 1.7% talking about the brand. Her videos take a more standard chef talking head approach.
Marion’s Kitchen also has a very active presence on Pinterest.
Marion has quite a high media profile and like other chefs such as Luke Nguyen, could conceivably do further TV cooking shows (funded and produced by Foxtel/The Lifestyle Channel/SBS etc..) giving her and Marion’s Kitchen great continued flow on exposure at almost no expense. As a small business, she also has limited overheads and an arrangement with Manassen Foods to distribute her products.
Update – Jul 2014 Asia Express cookbook
Marion has released a new pan asian cookbook in 2014, called Asia Express giving further exposure and coverage for the Marion’s Kitchen brand.
Update – Jun 2016 brand relaunch and expansion
The Marion’s Kitchen brand continues to grow. It has been relaunched with new packaging and now includes a full range of meal kits (called cooking kits likely for the the USA market). They have also achieved solid distribution in the highly competitive USA market in 17 different chain stores. On top that they have also launched a new recipe app.
2. Limited range/scale
With a relatively small range of products, the challenge for Five Tastes will be to achieve sufficient size and scale in order to justify continued dedicated advertising and promotional support.
For any new brand, this is absolutely critical. Whilst there are a number of competitive red and green curry pastes on the market, the sales rates of curry pastes are well above many other shelf stable Asian products and thus have to be part of the Five Tastes range.
Once you add in the price of protein and vegetables to the meal kits, they don’t appear that cheap relative to that of your local Asian takeaway meal. The challenge on the meal kits in particular is to get sufficient repeat purchase levels on an ongoing basis.
Update – Jul 2014 Mongolian paste
After investing heavily in establishing their credentials in pan Asian reasonably authentic cuisine with a focus on Thai, Five Tastes have launched a new addition to the range. Mongolian Paste. Hmmm……. Only available in Woolworths and curiously is not listed on the website as yet.
Update – Jun 2016 Brand relaunch
Undoubtedly under sales pressure from key customers, the brand has been recently relaunched with new packaging (including a new brand logo which dumbs down any authentic Asian food references), new product ranges – curry shots and stir fry shots. As predicted, the meal kits have been deleted from the range as well as the cooking sauces.
3. Priority within the Simplot business
One of the reasons that the Goodman Fielder’s brand Asia@Home failed in recent years was the priority, resources and attention the brand received relative to other brands in the portfolio. Sooner rather than later, the brand will have to generate sufficient operating profit to stand on its own. Even if it manages to achieve this, the brand will still likely be compared unfavourably with other more established Simplot brands competing in much larger categories.
Simplot also has limited leverage with the trade in the Asian foods category. Whilst they are a very large supplier overall, they have no other brand presence in the shelf stable Asian foods category. In contrast, distributors like Oriental Merchants, Hong Australia and Manassen have a large portfolio of brands and products within the shelf stable Asian products category, giving them greater leverage with the buyer.
4. Social media and follow up communication
After the initial positive investment in content marketing, there has been a noticeable lack of follow up investment in communicating the taste authenticity credentials of Five Tastes. This is most evident on social media on their Facebook page, where the social media strategy seems to be as much about curating general travel content and copying the creative strategy of Corona beer.
by Konrad Markham
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