Months after an unexpected plug by a popular Chinese television show sent demand for Weet-Bix soaring, the Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned producer of the breakfast cereal has announced that it will expand in China.
Todd Saunders, general manager of the Australia-based Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing, described the expansion as a milestone event.
“Today marks a new chapter in our story, and it’s a story that has been going now for over 117 years,” Saunders said at a news conference in Sydney.
While Sanitarium has been selling its products in China since 2008, it was the appearance of a box of Weet-Bix in the Chinese television drama “Ode to Joy” last summer that really caught the market’s attention. Sales of “Australia’s favorite breakfast” soared in China, with people also buying up stock in Australia and reselling to Chinese consumers with huge mark-ups.
Saunders said Chinese interest in Australian breakfast foods “is higher than it has ever been.”
“So, with that in mind, we feel that it’s a great time to launch our new brand, Nutri-Brex, into the Chinese marketplace as of next month,” he said. “It’s a brand that we have already launched with great success in the United Kingdom, and we are confident that China will embrace it, too.”
He said Nutri-Brex is different to Weet-Bix in name only, explaining that the new name had been chosen to comply with trademark restrictions.
“It will be made in Sanitarium factories here on our shores using 100 percent Australian wholegrain wheat with the same traditional recipe that Australian families have loved for almost 90 years,” he said.
He did not provide current or projected sales figures. But he expressed hope that Chinese children would be as enthusiastic about Nutri-Brex as Australian children are about Weet-Bix.
“I can’t wait for the day when I hear repeated to me that Chinese kids are Nutri-Brex kids,” he said.
Sanitarium — and two other Australian and New Zealand health brands, Integria Health Care and Manuka Health — are using the popularity and influence of Chinese television star Alyssa Chia to promote their products. Chia, who attended the news conference, is known in China as a “supermom” with an interest in nutritious foods and natural therapies.