Children's Education Goes Plant-Based: An Interview with WOW Kids founder Anna Yang
35 Dou covers the future of agriculture in China, with a focus on new, technology-driven food systems and how they can be used to support healthy and sustainable solutions. The channel recently interviewed Anna Yang, the founder of Dao Foods' portfolio company, WOW Kids. An English translation is below.
Non-dairy milk is a plant based alternative that has become widely available as a substitute to animal milk. There are many types of plant based milk, which include soy milk, almond milk, walnut milk, coconut milk, etc.
According to Tmall's 2020 Plant Protein Beverage Innovation Trends report, online sales for plant based beverages in 2020 was as high as 800%, and the number of buyers increased by 900%. With the public’s increased focus on health and wellness, along with greater consumer acceptance, there is still huge room for alternative dairy products to rise in China.
Plant milks play an important part of feeding the world's population of 10 billion people.
35 Dao recently spoke with Anna Yang, the founder of WOW Kids, who talked about her experience in the children's market and the integration of children's education with plant-based products.
WOW KIDS is focused on providing innovative plant nutrition dietary solutions for the Chinese market. Its products are aimed at children aged 6 to 12 and the company is creating a series of vegetable-based pea protein children's drinks to solve the problem of lactose in children's meals. These drinks are designed to offer easy digestion and easy absorption as well as convenience that is also nutritious. Currently, the company is conducting community product testing and B2B channel construction and is part of the Dao Food incubator program.
What products does WOW Kids offer?
Anna Yang: What we do can be summarized in the phrase: children's education + plant-based products. We provide Chinese children with new nutritious drinks based on plant protein (especially pea protein). Being in the early stages, we’re currently focusing on getting user feedback. Then, we will increase our investments in innovation, science and product development. In addition to drinks, we're also planning for a series of nutritious food and services for children. The team hopes to build strong brand awareness by offering good experiences for children's growth through daily eating and drinking.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using pea protein?
AY: We mainly focus on pea protein with different scientific formulas suitable for children's growth. The advantage of pea protein is that it is rich in amino acids, low sensitivity, etc., which is more suitable for children's intestines and stomachs. Currently, the disadvantage is that peas are a niche category of beans, with low production capacity and high prices. Technological innovation needs to be improved, and the comprehensive cost of product market education is relatively high.
How are you positioning your product as you approach commercialization?
AY: Our basic positioning in the market is nutritious plant drinks or alternative dairy products, which is also our focus. We hope to cooperate with excellent industrial chain partners at home and abroad to provide consumers with plant-based solutions suitable for children's healthy growth.
The frog plant drink brand itself focuses on the solution of a pure plant-based food system, but it cannot be ruled out that our partners will have biprotein. This is the natural attribute of mass diners and has been a part of Chinese food culture for thousands of years. We want to help expand the consumption of plant products into the daily diet of the consumer without guilting them through morals. Our focus is to provide the market with an additional healthy dietary choice that can be highly complementary and easily integrated into the current food culture.
How are you balancing technology and product marketing in the early stages?
AY: Since we are still in the early stages with limited funds and teams, we are working directly with the community to gauge customer feedback. At the same time, the R&D side has made great headway with national children's nutrition professional institutions and affiliated departments of third-class hospitals to make the product formula more cutting-edge. When the epidemic is over, capital and corresponding resources and teams will be optimized and upgraded, and this model will be replicated online and offline. The ultimate goal for our products and experiences is to benefit the children and families.
What previous work experience have you been able to transfer to plant-based entrepreneurship?
AY: I have been deeply engaged in four commercial fields before - education, real estate, automobiles, and consulting. Now I want to return to education. I hope we can combine the integration and innovation of education and the fast-moving consumer industry and make breakthroughs in both industries.
In terms of research and development, we are thinking about how to balance the development of the market and scientific research. Fourteen years ago, after I came back from studying in the United Kingdom, I won a 1 million women's science and technology innovation award and used it to work on one of the earliest high-tech projects in China that focuses on carbon emissions and carbon neutralization. It focused on intelligent recycling equipment for beverage bottles and cans. Unfortunately, the concept was too advanced, and didn’t work well once the project was finally tested. It saw domestic and foreign financing failure. This experience brings me in-depth thinking about entrepreneurship, that is, how to seize the opportunity, guide the market from the perspective of scientific research, or fully meet the current needs of the market. In retrospect, this experience taught us to choose equal focus on the market, capital, team and scientific research.
In terms of products, my previous experience in import and export trade has kept a high standard for the quality and design of a product from beginning to end. We nickname the product standard "three highs" - high standards of raw materials, high quality standards, and high environmentally-friendly standards. When we develop frog plant drinks, we have spent almost all our limited funds on quality control, seen through the three-party quality testing (national standard, international standard, third party, etc.), and the selection of national standard environmental standards for packaging materials.
In terms of services, love, responsibility and conscience services are bottom line values that we have in addition to commercial contracts and national regulations. We believe that the children are the future and because their childhood is short, we want to help them cherish it even more.
What are your expectations for the team?
AY: We hope that the team will have great love, a high sense of responsibility and self-discipline, maintain long-termism, tenacious goals and unique professional skills. What matters is not what kind of team the founder needs, but what kind of excellent team the brand, the object we serve and the market needs. In other words - how we continue to serve this little frog and children efficiently and responsibly and be a happy partner for a generation of children.
Have you encountered any difficulties as a female entrepreneur?
AY: Entrepreneurship has completely subverted my understanding of male characters in business when I read too much literature in my youth. Previously, I simply worshipped it, believing that most of the men had success in their DNA. They were born with strong hearts, outstanding skills, bravely shouldering heavy responsibilities, and a healthy and balanced family business. They were perfect business leaders.
However, with the entrepreneurial experience of environmental education and technology and business, the blind worship of "male strong" has weakened, and the experience of shopping malls has taught me to evaluate objectively. The gender difference advantage in the team actively develops an independent self. Later, it was found that the sensitivity of women in the early stages of entrepreneurship and the resilience and scale of women in distress glittered like excellent men.
Now team formation and leading teams can be more objectively aware of the multi-differentiation of men, women and personalities, and full integration is the best solution. For example, the advantages of male colleagues may be positive, optimistic and strategic; the advantages of female colleagues may be meticulous, affinity and resilience. Therefore, there should be good cooperation between men and women in the team. In a highly responsible career, the running-in, inclusiveness, strong execution and high integration of the core team, as well as continuous improvement, action and accountability for the same ultimate goal are very important.
In addition to career, women also have a challenge of how to balance family and entrepreneurship. I think it requires us to learn, practice and improve it all our lives.
The third is the balance between women's own perfectionism and realism. Women are more emotional, afraid of failure and rumors. It is easy to do things without stages and personal experience for a long time, and they pursue perfection too much. In fact, it is gradually understood that there is no perfection in the world. Even if there is, it is an imagination for you at this moment. It does not come from customers and the market. Therefore, we should learn to listen, screen, insist on necessity, compromise and give up, learn to embrace ourselves and reality, define goals at a farther point, and don't stop too much. Stop moving forward. We need to think more deeply about what kind of life value our dreams and business model innovations have created for customers in this era and the way to achieve this beautiful goal.