Bondi Chai is the Gold Standard in chai latte. A silk-smooth creaminess and almost addictive taste
make Bondi Chai one of Australia's favourite drinks, enhancing the best moments of every day. The team caught up with Martin Buggy, co-founder of Bondi Chai.
What is your company background, how did you start the business?
“My partner (in life and business) Melissa Edyvean and I first encountered ‘chai latte’ whilst visiting the US in 2000. At the time we owned a PR/Marketing consultancy and had no experience of the food industry, but it was fairly obvious that the ‘chai phenomenon’ was headed our way and we were intrigued by the possibility of getting involved. We began by helping a local distributor to source and market a leading US brand. Just as we were getting serious traction with the US brand, the owners rang to let us know they’d sold the business – and the new owners didn’t see Australia in their future plans! We’d been anticipating this call for quite some time and had toyed with the idea that when the time came we’d jump in and create our own product/brand – after all, how hard could it be!? We soon found out… spending the next 8 months perfecting our recipes, creating the packaging, creating/registering the brand name etc etc etc. We outsourced everything we could to keep the business model as simple as possible and cash-flow under tight control. That also left us time to focus on the critically important area of actually selling our product! We launched Bondi Chai Latte with two flavours and a single pack size in June, 2005. In our first month we sold just 17kg of our product – about 1700 cups of Bondi Chai. Twelve years on, our product is now sold in numerous countries around the world and someone buys a BondiChai Latte every two two seconds. The ‘chai phenomenon’ did, indeed, sweep throughout Australia and New Zealand and continues to grow in countries around the world wherever a new “café culture” is emerging or growing. We’re happy to think that Bondi Chai played a key role in that ‘phenomenon’ and continues to be a force in the category.”
What is the current product range and variants and how do these products stand out in the market?
“Bondi Chai is available in two variants and three pack sizes. It’s certified as gluten free, made with natural ingredients and is specifically blended to dissolve into milk (not simply hang in suspension) which gives it extra creaminess and a unique, delicious taste. We use no ‘industrial nasties’ in our product and has been recommended by nutritionists in the aged-care and health care arenas and is the only chai latte recommended by nutritionists for school children. Our product is the most awarded chai latte available with awards for taste and quality and healthy ingredients. Our business has been also been fortunate enough to win several prestige awards, including the Asia Pacific Food and Beverage Company of the Year in 2015.”
Has there been any recent company news?
“Always something new at Bondi Chai HQ! Our biggest news recently is the appointment of a new GM Asia Pacific who will be responsible for developing the market potential for our product in China/Korea/Japan and SE Asia. On the production front, we’ll soon be launching a brand new product that we’ve produced in a JV with another company. Can’t say too much at this stage, but watch this space in about September!”
What are the plans for the business moving forward, is there any expansion on the horizon?
“From our first days we set out to create a global product/brand – even the brand name was selected with that in mind. We’ve grown exports markets ‘organically’ over the years, but we’re now working hard on expanding our global reach with particular focus on Japan, Korea, China, the Middle East and Europe (where we’ve been exporting for many years). Of course, we’re also focused on places closer to home – like New Zealand where Bondi Chai has lots of fans, but we need more representation.”
Where are your products currently available to buy, and are you looking at or wanting to expand your availability?
“Bondi Chai is primarily enjoyed in cafes but an increasing number of fans in Australia and New Zealand are now buying through our online webshop (www.bondichaishop.com.au) and we’ve recently established a small retail presence in supermarkets in Christchurch, but our main aim continues to be expansion into New Zealand’s thriving café culture. Over the years we’ve had a constant stream of pleas from New Zealand consumers who want to buy Bondi Chai locally after falling in love with our product while holidaying in Australia. So we need to do something about that fast and we’re currently looking for distribution partners to help us.”