The firm has seen business boom by 87% in the region this year, largely on the back of its organic dairy and plant-based ranges.
And after a long-drawn process to obtain regulatory approval, Koita has finally entered South Korea, bringing the brand’s market presence to a total of 12 countries.
As South Korean legislation prohibits the addition of vitamins to imported milk, Koita went to lengths to create a bespoke organic milk product and a new packaging with Korean labels. To ensure the taste and nutrition levels were not compromised, quality checks and taste tests were performed in the company’s R&D headquarters in Italy.
Although the process took more than two years, Koita forged ahead as it recognised the opportunity for growth in the country’s organic dairy market. From 2017 to 2021, organic milk sales in South Korea rose by 18% every year. This figure is expected to rise alongside increasing awareness and demand for organic food products among millennials and Generation Z.
“It was a steep learning curve, but it was worth it. We saw that the organic dairy milk space in South Korea was dominated by just a few local players, and we found a partner who was willing to work with us long-term to fulfil all the compliance requirements,” Mustafa Koita, founder and CEO of Koita Foods, told Food-Navigator-Asia.
A first for the company, Koita entered the market via a 100% online distribution model, primarily to acquire feedback from local consumers.
In June, the brand debuted its organic whole milk in 200ml size on Naver’s e-commerce platform. To date, the product has received close to 400 reviews with an average rating of 4.9/5.
According to Ali Husain, Business Unit Manager – International at Koita, the brand has gained traction among its target market of parents. Significantly, sales doubled within six months of introduction, with 80% of customers expressing their intention to make repeat purchases.
“Two out of three parents mentioned that their children preferred the taste of our milk to organic milk from local brands, and that they would convert to Koita permanently. The response has encouraged our plans to launch a wider range of products in other online marketplaces such as Coupang, as well as venture into brick-and-mortar stores,” Ali said.
Gaining a foothold in APAC
Latest statistics from Koita indicated that Vietnam is its fastest-growing market in Asia-Pacific (APAC), while the UAE and Saudi Arabia are emerging in the Middle East region.
Building on this momentum, the company is focused on expanding its presence in the APAC region, including countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong, in the immediate term.
“Koita is a consumer-driven brand. What we are noticing is that consumers from the same household may have different preferences and/or needs. We consider ourselves a one-stop shop — for example, a mother who has a nut allergy could opt for our rice milk, a father who has lactose intolerance could choose from our lactose-free range, and their child who needs high-quality protein could get the 200ml whole milk,” said Koita.
With an ‘aggressive’ product development road map, the brand aims to roll out several new products by the second half of 2023. A series of proprietary primary research for the current lines are also underway to improve product quality and adapt to the evolving needs of consumers.
“Currently, most of our new product development is plant-based, which is on trend right now. But we are also looking at the protein space and formulating functional drinks. More on these will be unveiled next year,” Koita added.