The nine winners of Alibaba’s inaugural Go Global 11.11 Pitch Fest are gearing up to meet Chinese consumers looking for new, specialized brands at Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in just a few weeks.
Selected from nearly 100 applicants, the U.S. brands have been working closely with Tmall Global to prepare for their product launches for the world’s largest shopping event. The winners are being fast-tracked through Tmall Global’s Overseas Fulfilment program, which offers small and medium-sized brands without boots on the ground in China a low-cost, low-risk opportunity to test the market and fine-tune their strategies before establishing a full-fledged presence.
“We are truly inspired by the winners’ brand stories as well as their interest and passion in the Chinese market. We are excited to help them learn about a new market and broaden their customer base while also bringing more high-quality American products to consumers in China,” said Tony Shan, head of Tmall Global for the Americas.
The 11.11 pitch event is the latest initiative from Tmall Global to make it easier for global brands to tap the China market.
The winners were chosen based on their quality standards and potential for market appeal after a two-week evaluation by a panel of industry experts. The panel included Shan, Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder of Coresight Research and Danielle Bailey, managing vice president at APAC Gartner.
The winning brands span multiple product categories, including beauty, mother & baby care, wellness, personal care and food & beverage. Below is a snapshot of the U.S. brands and what they will offer during this year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.
Founded in 1838, C.O. Bigelow is the oldest apothecary in America. The one-of-a-kind pharmacy’s famous customers have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Twain and – legend has it – Thomas Edison, who is said to have stopped into the store to purchase a salve for his burned finger when he was working on inventing the lightbulb. One of the key ways Chinese consumers learn about new brands is by traveling and, prior to the pandemic, C.O. Bigelow’s store in Greenwich Village, New York was a popular landmark for Chinese shoppers.
“Now more than ever, with all that’s going on, people really crave authenticity,” said Ian Ginsberg, third-generation owner and president of the company, who said the pitch process is giving the brand the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of selling in China and gauge consumer appetite for its various product ranges.
French Bull founder Jackie Shapiro is a former fashion designer, a creative mastermind and a bit of a rebel who finds inspiration in the art, music and fashion of her native New York City. Her optimistic, urban attitude is reflected in the colorfully patterned everyday products she designs. The company’s range includes tableware, kitchenware, apparel, bowls and utensils for kids – and even items for pets. Shapiro is confident that the French Bull brand — and the French Bull attitude — will be an excellent fit for Chinese consumers as well, particularly the young millennial and Gen Z shoppers who make up over 60% of the Tmall Global customer base. As French Bull prepares to expand into China with Alibaba’s help, Shapiro says she is “so grateful to be able to connect to the other side of the world in a language we both speak, pattern and color.”
The Harmony Proteins brand, launched in 2019 under its parent brand, The Frozen Bean, offers a range of powdered drink mixes that contain natural collagen peptides to nourish skin, hair and nails and support bone health as well as the body’s natural immunity. Although Harmony Proteins has tested the waters in China through third-party retailers in the past, it will now be able to sell directly to consumers in the market with the help of Tmall Global. And the timing couldn’t be better, as Chinese consumers are increasingly looking for functional foods and ingestible beauty products that provide an array of health benefits. Noticing this match, Tmall Global has been providing the brand with valuable consumer insights and feedback, in addition to logistics and marketing expertise. Harmony Proteins’ 11.11 strategy focuses on understanding Chinese consumers and educating them on the health benefits of collagen, protein and probiotic ingredients.
Lab to Beauty
Sisters Katherine and Alison Ragusa took their inspiration from the farm-to-table movement to launch a brand that would transform clean beauty—Lab to Beauty. The company’s focus is on plant-derived ingredients in its unisex collection of vegan, cruelty-free, CBD-infused products and relies on the expertise of a team of scientists, farmers and botanists when developing new formulas. The digitally-savvy Ragusa sisters are creating original digital content to share the Lab to Beauty brand story with Chinese consumers and educate them about the products and the hero ingredient, CBD. Towards this goal, they’re now working with 25 U.S.-based KOLs and aim to grow the list to 250 by year-end. They believe storytelling on social media and offering customer-friendly content, like unboxing videos and livestreaming, are crucial to begin the conversation in the Chinese market.
Offering clean, high-performing, sustainable skincare products for babies, moms and families, Pipette is known for its exceedingly high ingredient standards. That’s what it says sets it apart in the increasingly crowded baby and personal care space. The brand banned over 2,000 potentially harmful ingredients from its labs and all of its products. That’s far higher than the 12 flagged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the 1,300 blocked by the E.U.’s regulator. The company said it expects its high standards will attract Chinese consumers, who have been very receptive to clean Western products that promote formula & packaging sustainability. In the past, startups could not have taken this step into a huge international market so early, but Tmall Global is lowering that barrier. Pipette said participating in the program has allowed it to learn more about the China market and puts it in a better position to succeed in the country long term.
Punky Colour’s mission for over 30 years has been to create the most-innovative, best-in-class and fun hair color products on the market. The brand offers demi-permanent, semi-permanent, permanent, and color-refreshing dyes and pigments in a wide variety of colors. For many of the young, trendy shoppers on Tmall Global, hair color is a clear expression of individuality. Mickey Fenig, vice president of international sales at American International Industries, Punky Colour’s parent company, knows the brand will be a big hit with this group. While the parent company’s beauty brands are currently sold in 150 countries, introducing Punky Colour to China with the support of a team that knows the market intricately was a priority for Fenig. “I strongly believe in working with local partners in every country to make sure we get the marketing message right.” The brand is also known for its vibrant colors, which make for striking photos that will appeal to Chinese consumers looking to make a statement and express their individuality via social media posts.
Shivelight Priemium Beverage Company
Shivelight Premium Beverage Company is a new American West success story, offering four flavors of all-natural drinking vinegars called shrubs from a small town in Montana. The beverages contain no stabilizers or preservatives and are made in small batches with raw, whole ingredients known to offer medicinal and health benefits, such as blood-sugar moderation and aiding digestion. Expanding internationally with Alibaba’s support was a natural next step for the brand for three reasons: Chinese consumers have long sought the medicinal and health benefits that drinking vinegars provide; China already has a drinking vinegar culture; and the brand’s focus on “pristine landscapes, clean ingredients and clean water will resonate” with Chinese consumers, according to Shivelight.
Uncle Bud’s is a hemp and CBD products brand co-founded by Garrett Greller, who started the company when studying a formula to help alleviate his own chronic arthritis pain. Greller’s partner, co-founder Bruno Schiavi, is a retail veteran who has launched a number of successful brands in the US over the last 25 years. Schiavi said Chinese consumers’ “great attitude toward skincare, health and natural pain relief” make the country a “great match” for Uncle Bud’s, and that’s why he’s going “all-in” for the pitch fest. Through the advice he received from Tmall Global team, he learned about the importance of using local key opinion leaders to share the brand’s story in addition to American celebrity endorsers. The founders found the team helpful in selecting products that will best resonate with Chinese consumers, among its extensive range of 72 different hemp and CBD products that span skincare, personal care, feminine care and even pet care.
Volition Beauty – a San Francisco-based brand that makes all its products in the U.S. – is shaking up the beauty industry by shifting the product development process into the hands of consumers. Unlike other beauty brands, Volition Beauty only offers products that have been created based on a suggestion from a real consumer with a specific skincare concern. Anyone can submit a product idea via the company’s website. This unique process has generated some powerful results, creating a community of half-a-million beauty enthusiasts from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The company said through the program it’s more confident that its next evolution will come from tapping Chinese beauty enthusiasts, especially those favor “clean” beauty products and those who want to help create unique products to meet their own individual needs.