|Kevin Chung, head of HR & IT|
Hung Fook Tong Holdings Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan
Prominent herbal-product group expands through constant innovation and staff engagement
For most Hong Kong consumers, the name Hung Fook Tong conjures up thoughts of herbal tea, but this home-grown company has an expanding range of wholesome products on offer. In a challenging market environment, innovation is essential, and Hung Fook Tong constantly reviews its offerings to keep up with diverse demand and evolving expectations. To do this, creative marketing and staff development are crucial.
Over the past few years, the group's business has evolved from offering primarily traditional herbal products to encompassing a comprehensive range of healthy food products, including soups and desserts that are MSG- and preservative-free, says Kevin Chung, head of HR & IT, Hung Fook Tong Holdings Limited.
This expansion has helped to popularise the concept of selecting food to enhance wellbeing, which is key to product development. "We stress the importance of using different herbal regimens according to the season, and for men, women and different age groups to use specific, tailored products," he explains.
Hung Fook Tong makes a point of offering consumers convenient packaging. For instance, the brand's classic tortoise plastron jelly is now available in a portable format with added honey and in aluminium packaging. This adds to the product's appeal to busy customers that prefer herbal products in a convenient format.
A major focus for Hung Fook Tong in 2012 is to increase value for consumers. To keep up with changing customer demands, the company conducts regular surveys at its outlets and runs focus-group studies for product development. Company executives also visit shops monthly to review consumers' response to their services, shopping environment and products. Clients are interviewed during product trials to gather their opinions about the quality, taste and packaging of new additions. Results are carefully evaluated by the product-development team in order to improve existing products and to formulate new merchandise.
Although economic fluctuations impact on spending habits, most Hong Kong people are health-conscious when it comes to food choices and are generally keen to pay for items that can improve their health and wellbeing, notes Mr Chung. In an effort to further expand its client base, Hung Fook Tong makes an ongoing effort to educate consumers about Chinese herbs and their health benefits. The information is well received, he says.
"Many Hong Kong people are interested in the subject, but don't take the time to learn more about it on their own," Mr Chung adds. "We're dedicated to promoting knowledge and getting customer feedback in order to diversify our products. Our members' club is one important channel for such communication."
With strong competition for retail talent in Hong Kong, Hung Fook Tong faces an ongoing challenge to recruit quality frontline sales staff. The company considers both local and mainland-immigrant candidates, provided that they have outgoing personalities, a keen sense of initiative and a willingness to learn. All frontline employees are expected to gain basic knowledge of herbal regimens in order to promote them to customers.
The firm provides extensive staff training. Its Hung Fook Tong Management Institute, which is managed by its people development department, offers more than 50 courses to newcomers, including a wide range of customer-service and product-knowledge modules. Regular sessions are organised at its newly built training centre. The organisation encourages further studies, for example a short course in Chinese medicine run by the HKU SPACE Community College. Staff members that complete this course are promoted to become Hung Fook Tong herb ambassadors and entitled to salary increases.
The management promotes employees' personal and professional growth, and always strives to improve communication across the workforce. Senior executives and department heads share the latest company news and upcoming plans with staff at quarterly meetings. Experienced Chinese-medicine consultants give regular briefings on seasonal herbal remedies, and guest speakers are invited to share their industry and life experience. "Our team has great spirit, since our company encourages a family-oriented culture," Mr Chung stresses.
Hung Fook Tong regards staff retention as vital and is currently reviewing working arrangements and benefits such as study, charity and paternity leave to improve work-life balance for employees. Information-technology systems are also being improved across the company's outlets, in order to improve efficiency and convenience for frontline staff. Mr Chung believes that an enhanced work environment and staff-development prospects will attract more quality candidates to the company.
"People interested in joining us should familiarise themselves with our background and products. We are particularly looking for candidates that share our passion for this field, and that are keen to use their experience and insight to promote it," he concludes.
- Business has expanded to encompass a comprehensive range of healthy herbal products
- Major focus this year is to increase value for consumers
- Ongoing effort to educate clientele about seasonal Chinese herbal products and their benefits
- Company reviewing working conditions and benefits to improve staff's work-life balance
Taken from Career Times 3 February 2012, B2