The solution of one young woman passionate about food, with a dislike of the restaurant industry
Wolf Kitchen is a brand of premium food products gaining a name for itself for its high quality, natural products. The Wolf behind the name is Lynn Yang Wolf who has roots in Germany and the Kokang region of Northern Shan State.
“Actually, I first had a food delivery company with a business partner when I moved back here three years ago and then it was called a different name. After problems with my partner, who effectively stole the company, I started a new company and my friend advised me to put my name on it so that the brand name cannot be stolen.
As fierce a name as ‘Wolf’ is for a range of healthy food products, it is actually a very common German surname. After preparations in 2016, the first Wolf’s Kitchen products were brought to the market in early 2017: a simple lineup of Epsom salt, raw Shan honey and Himalayan rock salt.
After Lynn returned from studying in Singapore, her father was unwell and her mother began making natural and healthy products in order to improve his health and avoid an ever-mounting number of medicines.
Later she realized there might be a market for these healthy products.
“When we started the company, we already had everything we needed: we knew the recipes and how to do everything. We’d been using these products for years already but only in 2017 we started selling them to outside customers.”
More than just good food
“At the start, people told me not to focus of a brand of healthy food – it wasn’t a trend and there were only one or two healthy food and organic companies working in Yangon. But I thought, why wait until it’s already popular? We should be the first ones to bring out this line of healthy food! And now, people are starting to care about healthy food products and because our branding started one year ago, that’s very helpful to us.”
But Lynn’s astute business sense told her that selling good, healthy food alone is not enough. In today’s market, branding and product design are often what make or break a new brand. Sourcing the right packaging to suit the quality and style of the food products was Lynn’s first challenges:
“Our first jars, they were actually really nice, they came from Thailand. But when we got the jars delivered from Thailand, the lids didn’t fit right—they were too loose. So we asked the factory to make new jars. I designed the printed sticker. The sticker is designed to leave a white space when it is removed. This is so people will reuse the jars and they can write the contents on the white space.”
Listening to the customer
Lynn was initially keen to sell the products in large quantities. She was influenced by people like her mother who like to buy ingredient in bulk. With the first Wolf Kitchen products, the feedback from the customers was that they don’t like the quantity because it’s too big and that they would buy it if it was a smaller quantity.
“We learned that customers are not like us but we do have to listen to them. So we had to sell the products in smaller sizes. This size now is better because the original size was so big the customers didn’t come back to buy more for a long time – about six months.”
Another problem was that Myanmar people weren’t familiar with Himalayan salt. There were questions about the strange color. Marketing the brand involved educating the local market about the products and the health benefits.
The products were first sold by delivery. Over time, however, the consistent Wolf Kitchen presence at the various farmers’ markets that have been popping up around Yangon has been a key to connecting with customers both small and large.
“One day the COO of CityMart bought our products and said ‘you should be selling this in CityMart because no one is selling this, especially the Himalayan salt’. So when we got into CityMart that’s when our sales went up. The farmers’ market is not a place to make money, but it’s an opportunity to meet your loyal customers and new customers. So a lot of our customers say that because they meet me personally they trust our products more.”
Small quantity, high quality
The quality of Wolf Kitchen products comes from the time, love and care put into each product. For example, the Himalayan salt is delivered in a 100-kilo block and ‘hand-mined’ and washed repeatedly until the granules reach the perfect thickness. The sauces are made from recipes that Lynn mastered from her mother:
“At the start it was just me using my mom’s recipe and making it but now the demand is high enough that we taught the recipe to two more staff who have taken over making it. We care a lot about the ingredients and we pass that on to them.”
Marketing a healthy food product in Myanmar
The products are made with natural ingredients and without preservatives or any other chemicals. By nature, the ingredients like honey, turmeric and ginger are also particularly high in health benefits too. With a strong market of honey products already for sale in Myanmar, Wolf Kitchen decided to up the honey game and do something a little differently.
“Honey lemon ginger tea is so good for your health and we were constantly giving people recipes to make it, so we thought we should just make ginger honey for them to make the tea more easily. Now you just put one spoon in hot water. And turmeric honey is good as a daily detox.”
While it was initially thought that foreigners living in Yangon would be her top customer, over time Myanmar foodies are the most common buyer.
This year the range of products has expanded to nine items: laphet sauce, peri peri sauce, tamarind sauce, ginger honey, turmeric honey, coconut tea leaf and scented bath salt. Though the jump from three to ten products in one year seems like a big jump, Wolf Kitchen intends to keep the quantity of products low and the quality high.
“I don’t want the business to grow fast, I want it to grow slowly because we want to keep the quality. But I do think it will be successful this way.”