Wholly Moly is a subsidiary of USA-based Yum Delight, and achieved sales of RMB$100m (US$15m) last year. It manufactures a range of wholegrain products, mostly containing its ‘hero’ ingredient, oat bran.
Claire Fang, founder of Wholly Moly established the company in 2015 and launched into the market in 2017 to encourage more wholegrain consumption, specifically bran, into the Chinese diet.
She told FoodNavigator-Asia that younger Chinese consumers (born after 1980) were consuming too much refined carbohydrates, especially because rice and noodles form a large part of their diet.
Refined carbohydrates can lead to greater spikes in blood glucose levels and put people at higher risk of weight gain and obesity.
Wholegrains which contain the bran (outer layer which is typically removed in refined carbohydrates), germ and endosperm is rich in dietary fibre, especially water soluble beta-glucan that the Chinese diet is lacking.
Dietary fibre has a whole host of health benefits including relieving constipation, promoting good gut health and lowering cholesterol.
According to Fang, adults should ingest about 25g of dietary fibre daily, however the average for the Chinese population was only one-third of the recommended daily intake.
Fang highlighted that female consumers were also increasingly more concerned about maintaining body weight.
“These consumers still enjoy eating their refined carbohydrates, but they don’t have alternative solutions, unless they omit all carbohydrates from their diet which is also not a healthy option.”
Wholly Moly’s existing range of products include 100% oats, oat bran, 5-grain, rice chips, oat bran drink and quinoa drink.
Its 100% oats and 5-grain product contain 5g of dietary fibre per 45g of serving, which meets 20% of the daily requirement.
According to Fang, one of its best-selling products were its oat bran which is marketed as an instant porridge in China. In the US, where it is also available, it is considered a breakfast cereal. Taste-wise, it is similar to millet porridge.
The brand also released an oat bran drink in powder format around 15 months ago. The oat bran is grounded, and dissolved easily in hot water. It has the consistency of oat milk, but tastes similar to rice.
Fang said the brand’s convenient, tasty and healthy products contributed to its growing sales in China.
“We didn’t invent oat bran, but we invented the concept of eating oat bran by incorporating it into the everyday lifestyle for the Chinese market.”
The products are retailing on major e-commerce channels in China, including Tmall, JD, Little Red Book, and WeChat where it operates flagship stores. Over 800% of its revenue come from e-commerce.
The products are also available in close to 200 brick and mortar stores in the country, such as Hema and premium supermarket chains.
In the US, its products are available on online grocery platform, Weee!, catering specifically to the Pan-Asian community.
Besides a presence in China and US, Fang added that the company had some interest from Hong Kong and Taiwan, although there were no immediate plans to expand into those markets.
The company customised manufacture its oat ingredient from the USA and Canada.
While it might be cheaper to source from Australia or China, Fang said the oats sourced from North America had a better quality and taste.
This also means its supply chain is spread across the world, with ingredient sourcing and processing in North America, and manufacturing for more complex recipes in South East Asia.
This global supply chain was also beneficial when China was the first to enter lockdown after the COVID-19 pandemic spread.
“We have a diversified strategy so when China was shut down, our operations elsewhere in North America and South East Asia were operating normally, and we also do not rely on a single factory. This helps us to navigate uncertainties around the pandemic,” Fang said.
Wholly Moly recently raised almost US$10m in a Series A funding round led by C Ventures. Fang told us the investment would be used to increase its working capital, expanding its supply chain network and new user base.
In addition, there are plans to expand the product line with different formats beyond porridge and drinks.
The brand is also looking into other health concerns that Chinese consumers were experiencing and might launch new branded products solving different health issues.