There’s no question that SunnyHills is the “it” brand when it comes to Taiwan’s favorite boxed dessert — the pineapple cake.
While it may seem like SunnyHills came out of nowhere, the company’s story is about a lot more than this simple pastry. It’s pretty much a masterclass on how to create a great product, build a brand, disrupt an industry and support your community.
They make a true pineapple cake. Before SunnyHills came onto the scene, most bakers added wintermelon to their pineapple cake filling. Some even went as far as completely replacing pineapple with wintermelon. SunnyHills only uses a specific pineapple cultivar known as Cayenne No. 2.
They work directly with Taiwanese pineapple farmers. From the very start, SunnyHills has supported the local agriculture industry by contracting local farmers to plant Cayenne No. 2. at a guaranteed purchase price.
They hire locally. SunnyHills makes most of its cakes by hand in its Nantou factory and only turns to automated production equipment during holiday seasons when demand peaks. “Manual production requires more workers and creates more jobs for our townspeople,” said owner Michael Sheu. “For us, that’s more important than productivity.”
They don’t cut corners. No artificial flavors, preservatives or sweeteners are added, which is why the shelf-life of a SunnyHills pineapple cake is just 15 days.
They make sustainability a priority. With sales of pineapple cakes booming, SunnyHills began selling pineapple juice in the summer of 2012 to recycle the produce waste piling up at its factory. For the record, the juice is great as a cocktail mixer.
They break traditions. The pineapple cakes I had as a kid were all the same flat, square shape. But SunnyHills cakes take a brick shape instead, apparently inspired by a cigarette pack.
They give away their product. Every visitor to the SunnyHills headquarters in Nantou receives a free pineapple cake. This results in long lines of tour buses every day. The same hospitality applies to the retail stores, where guests are invited to sit down for a cake and a complimentary cup of oolong tea as well.
They’re not afraid to be premium. Cakes produced for the overseas market use Echire butter from France. Those are priced at US$3 apiece, which is unheard in Taiwan. But that’s what a similar, high-quality pastry would sell for in Japan.
They invest in their brand. SunnyHills commissioned renowned Japanese designer Kengo Kuma to work on the exterior and interior appearance of the Tokyo shop in Aoyama. Kuma produced an NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) structure with a wooden lattice exoskeleton designed to lure passersby inside.
They’re killing it overseas. The SunnyHills store in Singapore is located inside the 125-year-old Raffles Hotel and sells between 4,000-5,000 cakes a day. In Shanghai, their store is on the Bund. In Hong Kong, they’re in Central.
They control their own distribution. Since the product has just a 15-day shelf-life, SunnyHills controls distribution through their own retail and e-commerce channels. If you order online from Europe or North America, you can expect the cakes to arrive within 5 business days.
Photo Credit: sunnyhills.com.tw