In 2020, the CEO of organic baby food brand Bellamy’s Organic, Andrew Cohen, stepped down, and Tarsi Luo stepped up into the position. Here, we talk to Luo about what she’s learned in her 13 years in retail across China and Australia, and how she’s bringing those lessons to the formula giant. Inside Retail: Could you tell me a bit about your time at Bellamy’s, and how the business has changed over the last year? Tarsi Luo: I joined Bellamy’s in May of last year, and there have
have been a lot of changes, especially post-Covid. I’ve made some changes myself as well, from the team structure to the culture, to help direct where the business is heading. One of my priorities as the new CEO is to set up a new five-year vision for the company to define where the business is heading, so that’s taken about six months of really getting my head around the brand and the people, to really help me draw up the blueprint for the business going forward. We did three major changes: We’ve invested more in our Australian brand, started developing some new products, and focused on supply-chain enhancements. During Covid-19, there have been a lot of issues in regards to supply chain, so we’ve put a lot of effort into that area. IR: And how would you say your previous roles have prepared you for this new position you’ve taken up? TL: I think every role has helped me with my journey. The first role I had in Australia, right after I emigrated, gave me a really good opportunity to learn about the local market, and get a sense of what Australian dairy farms are like. The farms, the farmers, and the whole end-to-end experience, from manufacturing to the product itself. It also gave me an open door to the FMCG world. It let me engage with different layers of the industry and meet business owners, so it was a very helpful experience. Then in my second role, I learned a lot more about international trading, right when daigou [cross-border exporting] was booming. I’m very fortunate to have had that experience, and also to have learned how to help Australian brands export to Japan, Singapore, China, Malaysia and other SEA markets. I think it’s a good mix of domestic experience, and exporting experience, which has prepared me to be successful in my role at Bellamy’s. IR: Australian baby formula, and health and beauty more widely, is a booming industry overseas. Why do you think that is? TL: Back in 2008, China had a major quality issue with baby formula, which has meant that a generation of people who were born in the 1980s are always looking for external choices. Australian products tend to be of a great quality and are often organic, which is an important element to Chinese consumers. Another reason is that Australia has a big Chinese community; around 12 per cent of the population is Chinese, and there is a large group of international travellers and students from China that come over every year. This makes trading between the countries relatively easy. The final reason is that the Therapeutic Goods Administration holds Australia’s products to a high standard, and Chinese people trust the quality and manufacturing standards Australia’s businesses have to meet. It gives them confidence. Plus, Australian products aren’t overly expensive, compared with products from other countries, so there’s a natural advantage. IR: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in exporting to SEA markets? TL: I’d say every country is different. In the last five years, China has been driven by e-commerce and is very advanced, but since the pandemic, more businesses are merging their online and offline trade. If you look at other SEA countries, there’s a really strong e-commerce industry. Vietnam’s e-commerce industry has grown by four times in the last five years, so things have changed rapidly, and each country has reacted to the pandemic differently. For me, being open minded and spending the time to understand each country’s way of trading is important. This story originally appeared in Inside FMCG’s April Issue.