During my university days in Central Auckland (New Zealand) I frequented a little hole-in-the-wall shop that sold the most mouthwatering cookies. The smell wafted the entire length of Queen Street and you couldn’t help but stop and buy from the Mrs Higgins store.
About a year ago, around the same time we were launching Lanehouse Apparel, I met Greg who was importing Mrs Higgins cookie dough from New Zealand into Shanghai and baking them fresh locally. The first thing I noticed was that Greg had a fantastic understanding of his local audience and adapted his cookie flavours and texture from the NZ recipe to suit the Chinese taste palate. Alongside this, Greg and his team were at every local market and event – come rain or shine. This work ethic, not surprisingly, saw his cookies sell out on many occasions.
Editor’s Note: Win a gift box from Mrs Higgins. Look for the contest box at the end of this article!
Firstly, what’s your best selling product here in China?
We have 14 different flavours of cookies and brownies but our top seller by far is our Cranberry Oatmeal cookie, the inspiration for which really came from our customers. When we starting trading in 2012 we soon learned that our Chinese customers preferred the Oatmeal-based cookies rich with fruits and grains, while the sweeter Chocolate-based cookies sold less. This is of course the complete opposite of sales in New Zealand where Chocolate Chip reigns supreme. We only had one Oatmeal cookie available at that time so we set about creating new flavours in our Auckland bakery just for China. We experimented with kiwifruit, apricot, mango, raspberry, cranberries and every seed and nut you can think of. We ended up with seven new Oatmeal variants of which Cranberry Oatmeal is the most popular.
Where do you source your ingredients?
All our doughs and batters are prepared in our Auckland bakery and then imported to China in raw form. Our ingredients are all NZ-sourced including butter, milk, chocolate and wheat flour. There are few exceptions such as Macadamia Nuts from Australia and Cranberries from the USA.
What challenges do you face in China?
One of the challenges for us in China is presentation vs. taste. You will have seen many fancy desserts in cake shops that look beautiful but fall short in taste. We came from the opposite end, ours tasted great but lacked presentation. So we have spent a lot of time in-house and with wholesale customers to meet the presentation expectations in China.
Any funny production stories or weird requests from customers?
Anyone operating for some time in China will have stories to tell! No-one likes to lose a wholesale customer but we did lose one for unusual reasons. They were attending a major food exhibition and wanted mini versions of our products to offer as giveaways to patrons visiting their booth. Well word soon got out and they were inundated with masses of people which required crowd control from security staff. The booth staff were so busy tending to this that it ended up dominating their time. They told us, “We love your product but it’s too good – they kept coming back for more.” In another instance, we did hear from one customer who purchased cookie dough and lacking a home oven tried to fry it. Then they sent us photos to complain that it ended up looking like a pancake!
What are your future plans?
We will continue to grow both our online and wholesale business which means partnering with several retailers, online platforms and other manufacturers. We continue to innovate and will be introducing several new products and flavours for 2016 which includes a range of Muffins and Chocolate Coconut Balls. We also represent several other New Zealand exporters in China assisting with compliance and channel sourcing. This means from this year we will be importing many other great New Zealand products into China.
Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
We don’t know, but they’re taking a lot. We’ve got CSI Shanghai on the case.
Where can we buy your delish products?
Our products range in price from 12 RMB to 268 RMB for gift boxes. We bake to order and ship twice a day all over China arriving the next day. You can buy our products at over 80 cafes, restaurants and hotels in Shanghai and online on Taobao or Kate & Kimi.
Connect with Mrs Higgins via WeChat: MrsHiggins
Here’s your chance to win a 6-pack cookie gift box from Mrs Higgins! One lucky reader will be selected on January 26th, 2015. Good luck!
Do you know of an awesome product or brand in Shanghai that we should feature? Let us know via email.