SLIM Secrets, one of the most well-known Australian health food brands, definitely deserved a cheat day following 2017.
The year panned out to be one of the group's most successful, and exciting, after Slim Secrets successfully pushed into Asia.
The brand's main goal in 2017 was to expand its global footprint at an aggressive level particularly in Asia.
Utilising local social media platforms like China's WeChat and Weibo, and by tapping into Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), Slim Secrets' products are capturing a new generation of Asian buyers.
Beyond China, Slim Secrets has started dominating in Korea and Japan. The brand has seen a number of endorsements by Japanese media as a very on-trend product, and Google's head office in Japan is a major customer of the Aussie brand.
Sharon Thurin, the CEO and founder of the wildly successful fitness food brand, says a crucial element of the group's success overseas was getting influential brand ambassadors on board.
"My mission this year was to increase our global expansion," says Thurnin.
"Tennis hero Angelique Kerber and singer Avril Lavigne, who counts as one of China's biggest international influencers, have taken us further than imagined."
In 2018, Slim Secrets is set to dominate even further in the Asian markets. But back home Thurin has a couple of wildcards up her sleeve who will help Slim Secrets dominate in the competitive Australian market.
"In 2018, we are looking forward to working with our newer brand ambassadors, Sally Pearson and Sophie Monk, as the brand unfolds some exciting innovations and collaborations," says Thurin.
Business News Australia spoke to Thurin about the group's push into Asia, the power of brand ambassadors, and what 2018 will bring for the company.
What was the motivation for the brand's push into Asia?
Funnily enough we've actually been selling into Asia in a smaller way over the last ten years really, but now the trends have changed in Asian culture. They're actually now looking at going to gyms and more into their health type products. Now our type of product is becoming popular so whilst we were selling there it wasn't mainstream.
Did you achieve your goals for the Asian expansion in 2017?
We've achieved them in a very small way but there is so much more to do. We've just dipped our toes in, and the one thing that we've learnt about exporting over the years is it takes time. We've definitely achieved some fantastic milestones but we have so much more to go. That's what's really exciting, because we can see the traction and it's really building.
What was the toughest part about breaking into the traditionally hard to crack Chinese market?
It's a combination of the language barrier and the regulations. What we know in Australia, you have to take off that hat and actually put on a different hat for China. The rules are there are no rules and everything is taking a lot longer than I had hoped. I think we've now got the right partners over there that have been advising us and I think that's a really important part of it. It's important to have the right people keeping you walking a straight line because otherwise you could just completely go in the wrong direction over there and get really burnt which other companies have done.
How important are brand ambassadors in the Asian markets?
Funnily enough, one of the brand ambassadors or brand advocates that we used this year was Avril Lavigne. She actually doesn't really tout many products at all so she actually has to really like the product. She's actually one of the largest western influencers in China and that for us was a positive. I think too you also need to look at the Chinese KOLs (key opinion leaders) and do quite a broad-spectrum of influencer marketing over there. The other thing too that we did in China was a lot of WeChat and Weibo so a lot of marketing just to build awareness about our type of products like I mentioned to you earlier. It'll take time, it's probably similar to Japan; it may not happen straight away but it will happen!
Getting Sophie Monk on as a brand ambassador is pretty great how important are brand ambassadors to the brand in Australia?
We're (I believe) quite innovative because we've been doing this for a long time - Pre-Instagram and Facebook and all of that. We started this when we had products in the bags at the Emmys and Oscars ten years ago and had quite a few celebrity endorsements at the time. It's a fantastic marketing tool. There are so many products and brands coming out that you have to look at ways of differentiating yourself and who we choose for our brand ambassadors really has helped us in that way.
What's in the pipeline for the brand in 2018?
We've got some incredible things. We are looking at a couple of product collaborations which I can't go into yet, but could be seriously unbelievable if it happens. And we're also launching some new products, we're looking at some savoury products in 2018 which we're really excited about because we get asked all the time about them and it's been a bit tricky, so we are really hoping that will happen in 2018. There's also the global expansion plans. We're in talks with about 10 other countries at the moment, so lots of global growth potential as well as local.