In late June 2020, our China team celebrated the grand opening of its first physical store, Sun House, in Shanghai. It isn’t any ordinary store. It’s a restaurant providing gourmet food; an extension of the Research & Development (R&D) Center where our innovation teams work on new products; and a place for consumers to try a variety of recipes, cooking classes and events.
With windows stretching from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, Sun House sees around 150 visitors a day. Meals and products are offered from breakfast to dinner – including afternoon tea service – making Sun House a one-stop dining solution.
But what makes Sun House truly unique is how it directly connects consumers to the product development process. Visitors to Sun House take part in the creation of new products for foodservice and retail by giving continuous, immediate feedback to Tyson Foods chefs. This data is then used to inform further product development all the way to the product’s launch.
“We’ve learned that consumers are a precious and valuable resource,” said Sun House Senior Manager Audrey Tang. “For new products, consumers give suggestions on taste, packaging, price, and purchase channels. We give this feedback to the R&D and marketing departments, and after improving and optimizing the product, we’ll take feedback again. After consumers are satisfied, then the products will be launched.”
When consumers aren’t busy tasting new products, they can learn how to cook healthy meals in cooking classes and can take a hand at being their own chefs through the DIY program – developing their own recipes and experiencing food innovation firsthand.
Sun House also develops activities for various holidays and festivals, like Chinese New Year, to keep consumers engaged and their offerings relevant. For the Chinese New Year celebrations, the store was decorated with reds and yellows, and specialty holiday dishes like roast chicken and hotpot were featured.
“Sun House has become a landmark in the area. Many people learn about the Tyson brand through Sun House and have fallen in love with Tyson products through Sun House experiences and activities,” Tang said.
Since its opening, Sun House has held 161 consumer experience events and has nearly 9000 loyal members. While consumers may have been familiar with the Tyson Foods brand before Sun House, Tang said the experiences offered at the store have strengthened community love for Tyson products, with consumers taking the initiative to participate in Sun House activities.
Our China team also provides an online store with options to purchase Tyson products from Sun House or online through their eCommerce platform, WeChat – a social media platform similar to Facebook. The WeChat mini mall allows users to purchase products to pick up in-store or have them mailed directly to their homes. Sun House also utilizes this platform for showcasing events and activities with short, vibrant videos increasing their reach and engagement with consumers.
Sun House plans to expand with more stores in major cities across China, with a goal of connecting consumers to the Tyson Foods brand, broadening its database of consumer feedback, improving research within the Chinese market, and creating a new brand benchmark in the food industry. They are also looking to upgrade and optimize the consumer research system and improve the market research process to further strengthen the functionality of Sun House, Tang said.
A second Sun House is set to open this year. This store will build on the feedback and research model of the first store while meeting the need for a brand-new flagship location for brand experience.