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Savvy successor revitalizes brand

By Christine Chou | China Post | Updated: 2016-11-25 15:59

Taiwan food company Hsin Tung Yang Co, famed for its trademark beef jerky and pineapple cakes, is on a mission to prove old can still be gold.

I sat down with HTY's Chief Executive Officer Mai Shen-yang, the tech savvy, cosmopolitan son of the company's founder, to talk future plans and the firm's upcoming 50-year anniversary.

Mai shared with me the story behind the HTY's revamped packaging, which is emblazoned with a new gold logo.

"When my father opened his first shop the letters 'Hsin Tung Yang' were written in gold on top of a red wooden sign. He was inspired by a Chinese idiom, 'gold-letter shop sign' (meaning a well-reputed brand). When making the new bag design, I asked the designer to keep the gold lettering to stay true to our heritage.

"It's the same as with clothing -- minimalist design gives off an air of luxury. We spent nearly NT$8 million to make the new packaging, but it was worth it. Each bag held in our customers' hands is an advertisement in itself and people tend to hold on to good designs longer."

Replacing the old, red, festival-themed packaging with the new elegant design is only one part of Mai's efforts to reinvigorate the family brand.

To reposition the firm's image and give it a more youthful appeal, he recruited an actress Ariel Lin to lead an advertising push.

"She is a fresh-faced young woman who is modern and opinionated. Choosing her caters to our main customer demographic: middle-aged women."

HTY are also currently searching for a new face to front the company's 50-year anniversary celebrations, with Mai saying heart-throb actor Eddie Peng and rock band Mayday were among the candidates.

Mai's father sought to make the HTY brand synonymous with ethnic-Chinese communities -- a vision reflected in the company's first slogan, "Where there are Chinese, there will be HTY."

The new slogan reveals the younger Mai's brimming passion and dedication to quality and taste: "HTY adds flavor to life: Tasty, tasteful, with a touch of hospitality."

From profit maximization to sustainability

Speaking of the company's sustainability efforts, Mai spoke of the shock he felt watching the recently released climate-change documentary "Before the Flood."

"I want our descendants to feel thankful that we took certain actions. We shouldn't continue business as usual and stay indifferent to evidence that shows the damaging impact of our business practices.

"Call it an original sin ... but I have been in this trade from the minute I was born. My father's objective was to make a living and provide for our family. But when the time came for me to take the helm, our family shop was now a corporation. And corporations have their responsibilities: Responsibility to our 1,000 employees and their families, so they could enjoy job security until retirement, as well as responsibility to our customers."

Mai spoke passionately of HTY's early commitment to traceable food production and distribution.

The firm was one of the first in Taiwan to start investing in food traceability platforms and is currently the only company in the country that has comprehensive records tracking both the production and distribution processes.

"People only notice these (quality control measures) when food scares hit. It's an incredibly expensive investment, but we do it anyway. Honesty and integrity are our core values."

On the subject of the company's strive to stay relevant in the face of intense competition from both old and new brands, Mai said HTY would simply stay true to the company's founding principles, "Integrity, Pragmatism and Innovation."

After winning of a decade-long trademark dispute with a relative in the Chinese mainland, Mai closed poor performing stores and invested in wholesale and e-commerce.

Mai said HTY was looking to provide "more sustainable possibilities," including moving away from a heavy reliance on meat products.

"As a company leader, I must think about this -- what's next for the company, where the company will head in the next 50 years."

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