Spicy snacks brand responds to fiery desires

Zhu Qing
China's leading snack chain brand, Snacks Are Busy, has opened its latest outlet, Snacks Are Spicy, in Changsha to cater to the region's residents' love for all things spicy.
Zhu Qing

A store dedicated to spicy snacks has opened in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, boasting over 2,200 varieties of fiery treats.

It is the latest effort by China's leading snack chain brand, Snacks Are Busy, to stand out in a competitive market by catering to the region's love for all things spicy. It is now the most comprehensive spicy snack store in the country.

The move marks another strategic expansion for the brand, following the successful opening of their Super Snacks Are Busy and Snacks Are Big stores earlier this year.

The stores, which feature oversized snack packaging, quickly became popular in Changsha, driving significant economic gains. During the May Day holiday in May, the combined revenue of the stores exceeded 7.15 million yuan (US$1.1 million).

Spicy snacks brand responds to fiery desires
Ti Gong

A wide variety of spicy food is seen in a Snacks Are Spicy store in Changsha.

Competitive landscape

The concept of wholesale snack stores in China is not new, tracing back to the establishment of Lyfen in Shanghai in 2002, followed by brands such as Haoxiangni and Laopodaren. These stores have traditionally attracted customers with a wide array of products at relatively low prices.

However, as more brands enter this competitive market, the need for differentiation has become critical.

Yan Zhou, founder of Snacks Are Busy, told media in an early interview: "Although the entry barrier for this industry is low, scaling and sustaining a snack brand is challenging. Success in this sector relies on operational excellence."

Founded in 2018 in Changsha, Snacks Are Busy has grown rapidly, now boasting over 4,000 stores nationwide.

The brand's strategy hinges on three core pillars: concept marketing, sensory-stimulating shopping experiences, and high-quality snacks at affordable prices.

Spicy snacks brand responds to fiery desires
Ti Gong

Screenshots of videos posted by Instagram user @jindee_china show customers posing with oversized snacks.

Innovative marketing

Today's snack store marketing isn't just about taste; it's about creating a buzz. For example, their "Super Snacks" campaign features oversized snacks, like 1-meter-high Lay's potato chips, 1-meter-long spicy strips, and 1.5-meter-long Wong Lo Kat drinks.

These giant snacks create a visual impact and, with endorsements from pop star Zhang Yixing and popular influencers, the "Super Snacks" campaign garnered billions of views on social media.

This marketing wave has also caught on internationally. Instagram user @jindee_china posted 10 videos exploring Super Snacks Are Busy stores, with one gaining 214,000 likes. Comments from the US, UK, France and other countries expressed a desire for similar stores and asked how to buy these snacks.

Everyone benefits from this marketing concept. Na Mingyuan, co-founder of Dolphin Society, told Logistics Business that customers enjoy sharing photos of oversized snacks online, which attracts traffic.

"Snacks Are Busy can use this strategy to boost brand influence, expand franchise opportunities, and increase sales and bargaining power by identifying new high-volume customers," Na added.

Spicy snacks brand responds to fiery desires
Ti Gong

Customers pose with oversized snacks.

Sensory-driven experience

The brand also focuses on creating engaging in-store experiences that stimulate the senses.

Eye-catching store signs, suspended product displays, a wide variety of snacks, and lively music engage all the senses, making Snacks Are Busy stores fun to visit.

"Customers might not have planned to buy anything, but once they enter our brightly packaged snack store, they can't resist making purchases," said founder Yan.

The stores also have unique features such as giant receipts, branded sculptures, and other Instagram-worthy installations. These elements create a fun, all-in-one shopping experience.

Andy, an author with New Distribution, explains: "By integrating these sensory-driven features, Snacks Are Busy successfully transforms an ordinary shopping trip into an immersive experience. This approach not only attracts customers but also encourages them to stay longer and explore more, ultimately leading to increased sales and customer loyalty."

Spicy snacks brand responds to fiery desires

Giant receipts and Snacks Are Busy mascots appear in the stores.

Affordability and quality

Affordability remains a key strategy for Snacks Are Busy, but unlike many competitors, the brand achieves this without compromising on quality.

In the wholesale snack industry, affordability is often achieved by selling unbranded, white-label products. For example, at another snack giant, Snacks Are Ming, white-label products make up 77 percent of their 15 categories and contribute to 73 percent of their sales, according to founder Li Shuyu.

However, as consumers, especially in lower-tier markets, begin to prioritize quality, this strategy is becoming less effective.

Snacks Are Busy addresses this challenge by maintaining affordability through supply chain optimization rather than relying heavily on white-label products.

The company's approach includes direct sourcing from large factories, efficient turnover, cash settlement, and eliminating back-end costs. These practices ensure that prices reflect the true value, allowing the company to offer cost-effective products without compromising on quality.

An analysis by The Outlook magazine highlights that Snacks Are Busy benefits from the scale effect and volume advantage of having many stores, categories, and products. This extensive network gives the company strong bargaining power with suppliers. Centralized procurement ensures that store snack costs remain well below market levels.

Spicy snacks brand responds to fiery desires
Ti Gong

Customers shop for spicy snacks.

Looking ahead

Yan has repeatedly stated in interviews that Snacks Are Busy aims for lasting success, not just a temporary hit.

This goal is undoubtedly challenging.

A franchisee of a snack wholesale store told Jiemian News that business is becoming increasingly difficult because nearly 30 snack brands have appeared in his city in just two years.

Another industry insider involved in chain franchising said that the overall gross profit margin of wholesale snack stores has dropped from 30 percent in 2022 to 18 percent now, as consumers in lower-tier markets increasingly care about brand awareness, causing the gross profit margin to fall quickly.

When discussing how to navigate these challenges, Yan emphasized that taking small, steady steps is better than big leaps. He focuses on providing products that cater to consumers of different age groups.

He also believed that many younger consumers, particularly those born in the 1990s and 2000s, have brand loyalty and are open to new products. Additionally, standardized store management is crucial for maintaining consistent quality and customer experience across all locations.

Jiemian News commented that in the long run, wholesale snack stores need to innovate more fundamentally in the products they sell. Instead of just being a low-cost display channel, they need to offer unique and high-quality products to stay competitive. The ability to adapt and meet evolving consumer preferences will be key to sustaining growth and success in this competitive market.

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