China’s e-commerce goes ‘nuts,’ as Three Squirrels breaks record of $73m sales

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Three Squirrels is the largest snack brand in all Chinese e-commerce channels combined.  Photo: Three Squirrels
Three Squirrels is the largest snack brand in all Chinese e-commerce channels combined. Photo: Three Squirrels

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Three Squirrels (三只松鼠) has posted record sales of 500m RMB ($73m) during the Double 11 Shopping Carnival this year, making it the largest snack brand in all Chinese e-commerce channels combined.

Double 11 refers to November 11th​ in Mainland China, and has become a popular online shopping day since 2009, as many companies sell discounted products through domestic e-tailers, such as Alibaba-owned Tmall and JD. It is also known as Singles Day event.

Meanwhile, the largest e-commerce platform in China, Alibaba, has reportedly reached 100bn RMB ($15bn) during the shopping carnival this year, a 32% increase compared to last year’s sales that were worth $14.3bn.

Three Squirrels was established in 2012 in Wuhu City of Anhui Province as an e-commerce nut snacks brand and employs over 2,300 people across China. The company mainly offers dried fruits and nuts, including cashews and pecans.

Nuts and seeds are the most popular salty snacks

The latest Mintel report shows that Chinese consumers eat nuts and seeds more frequently compared to puffed snacks.

“This is likely due to the healthy image of nuts and seeds, which are seen as being less processed, especially those that come with shells,”​ senior research analyst at Mintel, Karen Liu, commented in the report.

“By comparison, the usage frequency of puffed snacks, including crisps, vegetable crisps and popcorn, are lower, with the majority eating them once a week or less. This is likely due to consumers’ growing concerns towards high calories contained in puffed snacks and the unhealthy processing methods. For example, fried.”

Nuts and seeds comprise 84% of total consumption of salty snacks in terms of volume in China, Mintel added. The nuts segment makes the greatest contribution to the total value sales (71%) of the category due to its higher unit price, which almost triples the other sectors.

Taking advantage of $1.2bn Chinese nuts e-commerce market

“The online snack brands, such as Three Squirrels, have successfully won young people, who used to be less likely to eat nuts and seeds,”​ Mintel said. “This shows good prospect for the nuts and seeds segment to reach a wider consumer base, which can help drive the further expansion of the whole category.”

Domestic market research website, Chinese Industry Information, reports that the total sales value of nuts through e-commerce is around $1.2bn. In order to take advantage of the competitive Chinese e-commerce nuts market, Kraft brought its Planters Peanuts​ brand to China for the first time earlier this year.

Three Squirrels told BakeryAndSnacks that it is going to build additional three manufacturing sites, 20 warehouses and logistic centers across China in the next three years. It also aims to become a 10bn RMB ($1.5bn) brand by 2020.

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