From the source: Hey Tiger, Cyan Ta’eed

For years, chocolate was aimed at either kids or older customers, so when Cyan Ta’eed saw that gap in the market, she decided to launch her own social enterprise Hey Tiger, which aims to support cocoa farmers in West Africa. Here she discusses the competitive confectionary market and consumers’ rising interest in veganism and sustainability.

Inside Retail Weekly: Why did you decide to launch Hey Tiger? What’s it about?

Cyan Ta’eed: Hey Tiger is a social enterprise chocolate company. In 2017 I started looking at the chocolate industry and realised two things: first, that the branding, design and flavours of chocolate I was seeing in Australia were either targeted to my children or my parents-in-law, and that the industry has got a lot of deep systemic issues.

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I wanted to see a different type of chocolate company. One that was fun and luxurious and appealed to women like me, and one that was ethically sourced and gave back to cocoa farmers, who often earn less than 0.73¢ per day, which is far below the poverty line in West Africa.

IRW: Tell me about how Hey Tiger chocolate is produced. How do you come up with the flavours and where does it come from? Surely taste testing is your favourite part of the job.

CT: Wednesday is innovation meeting day, and that is BY FAR my favourite work day! We have an incredible innovation duo who work on delicious new flavour combinations and try to make chocolate no one else is making – like fairy bread covered in delicious vegan milk chocolate. They’ll often go through dozens of iterations to get the flavours just right, and unlike our competitors, our inclusions are made from scratch – meaning that our pretzel crumb and peanut milk chocolate bar was made by patisserie chefs and chocolatiers, and each component was made by hand.

IRW: What plans do you have for Hey Tiger this year? Do you see yourself expanding into other products in the future?

CT: This year was going to be all about efficient scale and adding some really exciting new types of products to our range. Given this new level of instability, we’re watching closely and if needed will focus on delivering an excellent product to our online customers who are currently buying up an absolute storm and outpacing all of our Easter sales predictions.

IRW: What do you think consumers’ appetite is like for sustainable food and snacks?

CT: I think consumers are becoming far more conscious of where their food comes from and what impact it has – from its environmental impact to its impact on other humans. Our vegan range has a very passionate following and while it is a small percentage of total sales, it’s growing quickly.

IRW: How would you describe the sustainable chocolate/food landscape right now? What are some of the opportunities and challenges for brands and retailers?

CT: This question becomes more complex at the moment. If you’d asked me late last year, I would have responded confidently that sustainable food is a strong growth market with a steep upwards trajectory. My background is in tech and the fact that tech is investing in meat substitutes is a strong indicator it’s going to be a growth area, both from a customer demand standpoint and from the point of view of environmental necessity.

A subset of customers are demanding to know where their chocolate comes from and believe it’s their responsibility to drive change with their dollar. This customer is usually one with a higher disposable income, because they have the luxury of choosing a product for quality instead of price point. For that reason, while I still believe this space will grow, it might grow at a slower pace.

IRW: How would you describe the general chocolate market right now?

CT: The chocolate market is the same as it’s been for many years – which is one of the reasons Hey Tiger has been able to get such cut-through. Most chocolate brands focus on European tradition, and to my knowledge Hey Tiger is the first brand to pair it with luxury and fashion. It blows my mind it’s not more so – chocolate is an incredibly delicious, experiential and indulgent experience. Honestly, we’ve just gone out and done it the way we wanted to do it, focused heavily on Instagram and engaging our passionate community, and been grateful to them for deciding to support us as a business. So far it seems to be working.

IRW: Hey Tiger’s done some pretty interesting collaborations in the past. Why did you decide to launch those and how did they benefit the business?

CT: A lot of the collaborations we’ve done have been because we’ve loved the brands or projects and wanted to work with them, and often what came with that was they had a passionate following that Hey Tiger resonated with too. Early days working with Go-To Skincare, Mecca and Mimco helped establish us as a different type of brand. It also helped us get the eye of influencers who shared our chocolate with their passionate audiences which sometimes produced a ten times multiplier in sales, many of whom stayed loyal customers once they’d tasted our chocolate.

Both Mecca and Mimco came to us with the same object  – they wanted to surprise and delight their customers with a gift from Hey Tiger in their stores. For Mimco, it was specific to an Easter promotion and for Mecca, it was a selection of store openings across Australia and New Zealand.

Go-To was looking for a gift-with-purchase on their website. We created a custom flavour designed by founder Zoe Foster Blake with a milk chocolate bar with coconut and caramelised popcorn. While Go-To gave the bar away as a gift, we sold the bar on our website and joined forces for an Instagram competition. This campaign was incredibly popular and the bar was in high demand. So much so, we’ve since re-packaged the bar as ‘Best Mates’ and it’s now an ongoing bestseller on our site.

IRW: What lessons did you learn from your first business, online learning marketplace Envato and how have you implemented them at Hey Tiger?

CT: An FMCG business is a completely different beast, and I have immense respect for anyone who has been able to do it. It is a massive gamble compared with tech, where you have to invest in getting something online but can then pivot and adjust iteratively with relative ease. It’s been a massive and humbling learning curve, but also just so much fun.

One big advantage was understanding how to sell online – we’ve been able to create a very powerful and fast growing online sales channel with very satisfied customers. That’s traditionally been a pain point for chocolate businesses, so I’m proud we’ve been able to crack that. Physical retail and wholesale was an unknown space to me, so creating a strong online base first just made sense.

But now we’re in a great spot because wholesale customers come to us – our customers are coming in and asking for us, or they’ve been gifted Hey Tiger already by someone else.

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