business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Thanks to MNB reader Elizabeth Board for pointing out a Wall Street Journal story yesterday that is a perfect example of innovative thinking that can create consumer interest and, as a result, sales and profits.

The dateline was Shanghai, China, and the story had to do with how many Chinese consumers have started drinking their tea with cream cheese.

Yes, that’s right. Tea with cream cheese.

According to the story, “Known as “nai gai cha” (‘milk-lidded tea’) in Chinese, the drink is made using a base of tea topped with a cap of cream and cream cheese that is whipped together until it forms a light, fluffy texture. Tea houses encourage drinkers to sip it at a 45-degree angle for the ideal mouthful. And it’s become a bona fide phenomenon.”

The story goes on to say that “cream-cheese topped tea has grown so popular so quickly that New Zealand-based Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd. built a new plant last year that churns out 24,000 tons of cream cheese annually for China’s tea macchiatos. Overnight, the factory became one of the largest producers of cream cheese in New Zealand.” Kudos to Fonterra for grabbing the moment.

What’s really interesting about this is that apparently most Chinese consumers had no preconceptions about how to use cream cheese - what did they know from bagels and lox? And so putting cream cheese in tea was as natural as putting cream in tea.

Are venti nai gai cha teas in our future? Wouldn’t bet against it … and it may end up being an Eye-Opener.

However … the story also notes that another drink gaining some popularity in China is “beer macchiatos,” which is a beer served with cream cheese on top.

A bridge too far, methinks.
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