In an incredible 55-year journey, Tai Sun has evolved into Singapore’s largest nuts and snacks company that is still family-run by leaders who earned their positions.
Esther Loo, the brand’s third-generation scion and current head of marketing, is a perfect example of this. Instead of automatically assuming a role after completing her studies, she was “gently” persuaded to pave her way. “I was kicked out!” Loo laughs. “I was made to gain outside experience, so I joined an agency.”
She cut her teeth in public relations and advertising before making the switch to marketing, which turned out to be her true calling. Eleven years ago, while working at L’Oreal Singapore, the family asked her to help out with the business. Her first task? Plan and execute a brand overhaul for a then-outdated Tai Sun.
Having come from the fast-paced corporate world, Loo didn’t find the project daunting. She got cracking right away and confirmed through market research that branding was at the root of the issue. “All the products fell under the title brand: Tai Sun Nuts, Tai Sun Chips and so on. The packaging was quite messy and there was no real formatting for the brand as a whole,” she says. “In blind taste tests, our products came out on top almost every time, but brand recall was rather poor so the younger generation was not picking up our products.”
With this information, Loo launched a repositioning campaign, complete with brand bibles and product segmentation. The result is Tai Sun’s current portfolio that also includes brands like Nature’s Wonders, Treatz, UCA and more.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Loo has consistently been looking for ways to innovate. To tie in with the company’s 55th anniversary, Nature’s Wonders and Treatz – Tai Sun’s nut and potato chip brands – will welcome new developments. Without revealing too much ahead of the upcoming launch, she tells us Nature’s Wonders will be rolling out new nuts and mixes, and Treatz will receive a significant revamp. “Right now, Treatz features large, colourful packs. At the time of the previous rebranding, consumers preferred these large packs,” she says. “That trend has evolved, so we need to as well.”
Her focus on innovation and keeping up with trends has permeated into other parts of the business as well. For a long time now, she’s recognised that Singaporeans are more health-conscious. To address that, she wants to convey to the public that healthy snacks such as pecans and macadamias, often thought of as premium nuts, are not necessarily out of reach.
“For the older generation, [these nuts] seem expensive. As the market leader, we want to educate the public on their health benefits. We have been working closely with the Singapore Heart Foundation to achieve this goal.”
Recognising the value of their reach and engagement, Tai Sun has also taken its educational efforts to social media platforms. Apart from being able to educate consumers, the brand also gets to interact with them. “If people don’t like something, they’ll message you immediately. That’s good because we can rectify issues as soon as possible.” While Tai Sun has not explored other newer forms of social media like TikTok, she says that this is only a matter of time, especially since it wants to connect with younger generations.
Balancing innovation and tradition can be tricky, but Tai Sun seems to have it down to a tee. What’s the secret formula? “Thankfully, I have modern bosses,” she laughs. “Our tradition is our stance on quality. That will never change. Innovation keeps the brand moving forward.”