Tealive has unveiled its Yam Yam series of smoothies in Malaysia in three variants, namely Milk Tea, Smoothie and Brown Sugar Smoothie. Each of these drinks is topped with granules of yam, sago and pearls to give it a chewy texture. Yam Yam Milk Tea is topped with yam balls and sago, Yam Yam Smoothie with yam pearls and sago, and Yam Yam Brown Sugar Smoothie with pearls and sago.

With this launch, Tealive is tapping into the popularity of milk teas, smoothies and bubble teas in Malaysia and attracting new consumers to its fold by leveraging new flavour and texture combinations. For instance, the toppings of yam and sago balls, together with yam pearls, provide a soft and chewy texture that alternates with the cool and sweet taste of the drink.

The Yam Yam series is targeted at adventurous Malaysian youths who like to experiment with fusion food and drinks that deliver a new twist to a classic recipe. This is validated by GlobalData’s Q2 2021 survey, in which 73% of Malaysian respondents aged 16–34 years found food and drinks with complex or multiple flavour combinations appealing. In addition, the milk tea and smoothie variants are claimed to have a natural cooling effect on the body, thereby offering a refreshing experience in hot, tropical weather.

The bubble tea or boba tea trend that spread from Taiwan to Malaysia years ago has witnessed a resurgence in popularity in Malaysia in recent years, spurred by expanding store networks, a focus on product innovation, intensive social media marketing campaigns, customer loyalty programmes and brands introducing online ordering services. For instance, the introduction of the Yam Yam series follows close on the heels of a spate of product launches such as Bang Bang Oatsem, SUPA Horlicks Drinks and Grape Velvet, which Tealive has been churning out since the start of this year. This reflects the intense competition among bubble tea makers in the country.

As well as this, social media exerts a strong influence on purchasing decisions due to the high penetration of broadband internet in Malaysia. Online social media influencers and bloggers are fanning the flame by posting regular updates on the latest bubble teas to hit the streets. In order to encourage customers to post images of themselves savouring the drink, café owners make use of attractive packaging and vibrant colours and textures in their offerings. For instance, Tealive rolled out a social media campaign with the hashtag #SipChewRepeat for the Yam Yam series.

As in the case of most bubble tea brands, Tealive has built a dedicated customer base by offering a loyalty programme called Unitea. Customers can purchase a Unitea lifetime membership card for around MYR10.85 ($2.57) and receive a free welcome drink on sign-up, a free drink on their birthday, loyalty points for every purchase, and exclusive deals for members.

Boba tea makers have also adopted multi-format outlets and tied up with food aggregators to offer online orders and doorstep delivery, thereby freeing customers from having to queue at cafés. This aspect gained more importance during the Covid-19 pandemic last year, allowing bubble tea cafés to keep their businesses operating amid lockdowns and social distancing regulations. The virus outbreak also pushed players to adopt omnichannel retail approaches such as allowing consumers to order ahead online and pick up the order at a drive-through.

Tealive is selling its new drinks through take-away (self-pickup) at its outlets and through delivery partners such as Foodpanda and Touch ‘n’ Go eWallet. The drinks are available at relatively premium prices, with Yam Yam Milk Tea, available in regular cup sizes, selling at MYR11.23 ($2.66), and Yam Yam Smoothie and Yam Yam Brown Sugar Smoothie drinks, available in large cups, selling at MYR11.79 ($2.79). Products are served in transparent cups that display the colour and contents, which lets consumers see the contents of the cup, including the textures.

The bubble tea trend will continue to prevail in the near future, with brands continue to expand their store network. Tealive aims to ramp up its network from its current count of 650 outlets to 1,000 stores by 2024.

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