June 22, 20232023年 06月 22日
A little over a year ago, we shared that Lever had helped former IKEA executive Michelle Tseng launch new plant-based desserts and baked goods company Greenice Foods in China. Lever recognized Michelle’s immense potential and worked closely with her to transform her vision into a reality. Our comprehensive assistance encompassed crucial aspects, such as facilitating legal set-up, offering financial planning and projections, devising effective PR strategies, introducing sales channels, and formulating a compelling fundraising strategy. Lever’s tailored support proved instrumental in propelling Michelle’s company from a mere concept on paper to a tangible and thriving entity. Greenice was the first startup to come to life thanks to Lever’s Venture Building program in China.
In July 2022, Greenice initiated commercial production and sales, marking a significant milestone in its journey. The launch comprised an impressive range of innovative products that captured the essence of the Song Dynasty. Michelle and her team ingeniously crafted plant-based versions of the renowned Song Dynasty gift boxes, renowned for their association with the Mid-Autumn Festival and Teacher’s Day celebrations. These gift boxes showcased five delectable flavors of plant-based desserts intricately intertwined with elements of the sophisticated Song Dynasty culture.
The exceptional quality and artistic finesse of Greenice’s offerings garnered substantial recognition and acclaim. The boxes swiftly gained prominence and were appointed as the official gift boxes for esteemed establishments like the Westin Hotel in Nanjing and the AXA Insurance Company, among others. Additionally, Greenice unveiled a tantalizing plant-based coconut ice cream dessert served in a natural coconut shell. This treat was made available through online channels and a strategic partnership with the popular Shanghai hotpot restaurant chain, Just Thai.
The market response to Greenice’s products was impressive. In its initial months of operation, Greenice witnessed an impressive surge in sales, attracting a diverse customer base beyond the typical consumers of plant-based products. Greenice recently launched a new rice-protein-based product line – milk, cakes and ice cream – which has already gained media attention.
A year later, and with Lever by its side, Greenice has emerged as a leading player in the plant-based dessert sector in China. Lever met Michelle to chat about the challenges and rewards of running Greenice.
Q: What inspired you to start Greenice, and how did you develop the idea?
Michelle: Greenice’s unique products are made from rice, Chinese herbs, characteristic regional fruits, and nut milk. At the time, the increasing demand for plant-based desserts and ice products in the Chinese market caught my attention. However, I noticed a lack of brands that truly catered to local Chinese tastes and offered innovative products. This market environment sparked the idea in my mind that Chinese plant-based and frozen products have untapped potential for further development. I wanted to create authentic oriental plant-based desserts with local characteristics that would resonate with Chinese people and bring them delightful surprises. Luckily, my previous entrepreneurial experience of establishing and operating three dessert and afternoon tea brands gave me valuable insights into the market. Furthermore, my involvement in plant-based projects and environmental development campaigns at IKEA strengthened my desire to focus on developing healthy and sustainable food options. Delving into plant-based desserts was a confident and joyful decision for me.
Q: What challenges or fears did you face when launching Greenice, and how did you overcome them?
Michelle: Launching Greenice came with the inherent fear of consumer acceptance. You never truly know how your products will be received until they hit the market – that’s when all your research and preparation are put to the test. Another fear was insufficient funds to sustain the business until we could generate sales. To overcome these challenges, we started with products that didn’t require extensive resources and had a quick time to market. We focused on marketing channels with fast turnovers, allowing us to remain liquid and test the market effectively. This approach paid off, and as we promoted ourselves, we were incredibly grateful to present our concept to Lever. Their interest in investing in our venture drove our subsequent campaigns and provided the needed boost.
Q: What role has Lever Foundation played in your journey, and what impact has their support had on your business?
Michelle: Greenice received valuable incubation support from Lever Foundation and obtained seed capital investment during our startup phase. In the early stages, we utilized part of the funds to explore B2B collaborations with hotels and catering channels. We launched plant-based pastries with distinctive Chinese characteristics and highly marketable plant-based ice cream. Combined with our team’s expertise, we provided marketing support to our partnering hotels and catering customers to promote plant-based products in the consumer market and increase brand recognition. The results were extremely positive. This served as a preliminary test before directly marketing our products to the consumer market. Lever Foundation not only provided us with financial support but also assisted in connecting us with valuable channel cooperation resources. Their support has been instrumental in expanding the Chinese plant-based dessert market.
Q: How have customers responded to Greenice, and what have been some of your biggest achievements so far?
Michelle: We have observed a significant homogeneity of taste in the current plant-based ice cream market. Traditional and common flavors often fail to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. Drawing inspiration from traditional Chinese desserts, we have innovated and elevated the unique flavors of China into our plant-based ice cream, creating a refreshing and exciting experience for consumers. We delve into the stories behind our ingredients, showcasing our love and care for the abundant produce of China’s vast land and the farmers who cultivate it. This approach has resonated with consumers. During recent exhibitions, we introduced new products and conducted road shows. Consumers eagerly lined up to buy and try our ice cream, providing positive feedback. This overwhelming response has greatly boosted my confidence in building the brand and delivering exceptional taste.
Q: How are you balancing your commitment to sustainability and animal welfare with the demands of running a successful business?
Michelle: I firmly believe that for a brand to thrive in the long run, it must adhere to sustainable strategies. Chinese farming culture has deep roots spanning thousands of years, and the emotional connection between Chinese people and the land cannot be easily overshadowed by urban developments. In various ways, more and more individuals are returning to the countryside, seeking a better life and reconnecting with nature. At Greenice, we aim to connect consumers and rural land through sustainable plant-based products. We trace the origins of our ingredients together, highlighting the stories behind the land, the authenticity of our ingredients, and the power of plants. This approach allows people to appreciate and cherish the land we live on while enjoying delicious food.
Moreover, we strive to establish a friendly and sustainable relationship between our brand, society, and people. By aligning ourselves with these principles, we can fulfill our long-term strategy while balancing our commitment to sustainability and animal welfare with the demands of running a successful business.
This work happened because of the support of people like you. Please consider donating today to build a more humane and sustainable protein supply in Asia.