Overseas bubble tea chain opens Melbourne flagship

From Chatime to Gong Cha, bubble tea is on the rise in Australia and now, Taiwanese Milksha has recently entered the Australian market.

Milksha (known as Milkshop in Taiwan) has more than 240 outlets in its domestic market and across Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau and now Australia.

“The bubble tea craze has been seized in top cities around the world. In our observation, this market keeps growing as more and more people are getting familiar with the bubble tea drinks, including the Western markets,” explains Peter Huang, Milkshop International’s general manager.

Huang was business development manager at 7-Eleven in Taiwan for 10 years. In 2009 he franchised the first Milksha store, where he had so much success that founder and chairman Kevin Lin invited him to join the company as general manager. He has built the brand image of Milksha, and systematically developed and expanded the franchising stores all over Taiwan and in the overseas market.

“We chose Melbourne to launch our flagship store,” he says, “because it is no doubt the foodie capital of Australia. The city is a melting pot of different cultures open to trying new products, which can be seen in its established and growing market of bubble tea lovers. Australians are seeking high-quality products and are more health-conscious about their lifestyles, which matches with Milksha brand pillars: natural, healthy and high-quality.”

According to Huang, Milksha has set the benchmark in the bubble tea market in Taiwain in terms of sourcing quality ingredients. The business owns a dairy farm in Taiwan and Lin comes from a third-generation farming family.

Fresh milk is a crucial, distinguishing ingredient for Milksha, and in Australia the company is partnering with local award-winning Saint David Dairy for all its fresh milk.

“Our team tested over 30 different milk brands in Victoria, and the team at Saint David proved exceptional. The quality of their milk extended beyond the product, and through their sustainability practices by offering small-scale processing, localised supply chains and transparency in their commitment to ethical and environmental welfare,” Huang says.

In line with Milksha’s environmental focus, the franchise uses 100 per cent biodegradable bamboo straws. The bamboo is grown and the straws made in Taiwan, and they are completely free from plastic, bioplastic and PLA.

“By using paper bags, paper cup holders and bamboo straws instead of plastic, we hope to reduce our impact on the environment. Milksha is a proactive brand and we will continue to seek other sustainable alternatives to integrate within our business,” says Huang.

Toppings and teas

“We source high-quality loose-leaf teas from various regions around the world, including Taiwan and Sri Lanka. Our tea leaves are brewed and tested regularly for quality control. There is a lot which goes on behind the scenes, including using water that goes through a multi-filtration process. But we believe in providing the best quality ingredients for our discerning customers,” Huang says.

Milksha’s Australian menu features five bubble tea categories: Fresh Milk (pure milk blends), Tea Latte (loose-leaf tea and milk), Specialty (seasonal juices and teas), Tea (Jasmine Green, Earl Grey, Light-roasted Oolong, Oolong and Barley teas) and Yoghurt Drink (Strawberry, Avocado and Mango).

Milksha makes its own signature honey pearls toppings, which are quick frozen and shipped to Melbourne. Other toppings include milk pudding, red bean and herbal fairy-grass jelly.

Specialty ingredients for this brand include Taiwanese taro milk, premium cocoa from France and matcha from Japan.

Bubbling all over Australia

Milksha will initially focus its energies in Melbourne with Sydney following, before extending the brand’s reach across the nation.

“We will steadily and firmly grow the business in Australia like we have done in other countries instead of spreading out too fast and overlooking our product quality,” says Huang.

“Milksha is a well-established brand in Asia, and so we believe the brand reputation helps the brand awareness among Asian communities. To grow the brand well in Australia, we pay attention to consumers’ experiences in our store.”

That equates to creating what Huang describes as “a cosy and stylish space for our customers”.

Constant social and digital communications help maintain customer support and ensure word-of-mouth messaging delivers new business.

An overseas brand over here

Huang points out that thorough research into a new market is always part of the pre-expansion plan for the Milksha brand, giving confidence that the fresh territory will prove viable.

Ingredients are key, so to sustain the authentic flavour of its bubble tea, Milksha ships fresh ingredients from Taiwan to each market.

“We have learned how to keep the best conditions of the ingredients from many failures in the past,” he admits.

“We also provide strong support from our headquarters for each market with an R&D team that specialises in product innovation and quality control,” says Huang.

It is crucial not just to rubber-stamp the menu without due regard to local tastes and culture. The Melbourne franchisee, for example, is stocking exclusive yogurt drinks unavailable in other markets.

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