While on a business mission trip with Enterprise Singapore to San Francisco in 2013, Cheng Yew Heng Director of Business Development John Cheng attended a design thinking workshop.
This sparked a great interest in him to tap design thinking for product innovation and to relook business processes. However, even before Cheng could begin, he faced considerable push back from the management team as developing new products required huge investments in product design, marketing, machinery, and production.
It became top priority for Cheng to convince internal stakeholders first with a clear strategy, narrative and considerable cost saving measures to ensure the company was financially on track to afford product innovation.
This led to a three-year journey towards a new product line.
At the start, Cheng hired external business consultants to look at market gaps while internally exploring what could potentially be improved on in terms of processes and products. The team began with market research and design ethnography to understand and empathise with customer pain points better. This included identifying the key target audience – the younger generation.
Working in close collaboration with universities, polytechnics and institutes of technical education, Cheng Yew Heng developed a new methodology to crystallise rock sugar on a stick and the ability to infuse sugar with different colours and flavours.
Cheng Yew Heng tested the prototypes to get feedback. It discovered that the products were not just good as a stirrer but also as a candy that one could dip into the beverages.
Jewels rock sugar sticks were launched in 2016 by Cheng Yew Heng Candy Factory.
Following the positive response from the focus groups on the rock sugar sticks, Cheng Yew Heng went on to design a complete consumer experience catering to the lifestyle market.
Previously, rock sugar was produced in either refined or coarse packets and simply stirred into the beverage or dessert. Now, the rock sugar would be packaged in its natural, crystallised state on a stick and produced in different flavours.
The new product would be experienced differently: consumers would be encouraged to taste the flavoured Jewels stick first, before stirring it in the beverage and then tasting it again. This changed the way consumers experienced rock sugar – either eaten as a candy on its own or dipped in coffee, tea, sparkling water, or cocktails. Some of the flavours included Singapore Sling, jujube, lemon fiesta, and French vanilla.
Flavours of the Jewels rock candy sticks include Caramel,
Coconut, Peppermint, Hazelnut and Raspberry.
The new product meant having to introduce a new production line while the new experience would require a different marketing strategy to reach new customers. This meant creating targeted marketing efforts and strategic placements of the new products at specific stores where the young and trendy frequent, and also high-end departmental stores to entice the middle- to high-income groups.
After three years of R&D, product development and readying the processes, Cheng Yew Heng launched the new product line at Food & Hotel Asia in 2016.