The Hong Kong store is the fourth overseas retail store of the Taiwanese brand after Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo. Hong Kong is one of only three markets in Asia to have a Michelin restaurant guide, an indicator of a fussy market as well as the reason why the owners took two years of preparation for the launch in the city (the other two markets are Japan and Macau).
The launch called for a premium pineapple cake, which the brand has termed “Summer’s Blush”. The product uses summer-harvest pineapples, as opposed to year-round ones used in Taiwan. The brand said they are exceptionally intense and rich in flavour, and baked with French A.O.P. Echiré butter, coveted for its delicate and creamy taste.
The company has confidence that the tough Hong Kong market, inundated with snacks of all sorts from all over Asia, will be drawn to this higher-quality product.
The company has done little to drum up publicity for its launch in the city, apart from setting up a Facebook page and appointing of SAGE Communications to pitch to lifestyle publications. The brand prefers a low profile.
"When we started in 2008, we wanted to create a romantic and pure brand since the world world is doing the same thing—standardisation," said Damian Lee, general manager of SunnyHills.
With the likes of 20,000 competing shops in Taiwan making similar pineapple pastries, the company was more idealistic when building its brand. "Building a brand is very different from building a business," Lee said. "We are not just focused on making money, but the process of agriculture and manufacture."
SunnyHills positions itself as not just a pastry brand, but an agri-business that supports local pineapple farmers. It contracts farmers to grow a certain type of pineapple cultivar, known as Cayenne No. 2, at a guaranteed purchase price.
"That made many Taiwanese wholesalers angry, but there is a certain energy in the brand that comes from working directly with farmers," Lee said. "Only when we build a brand well, we can guide pricing. If pricing is only based on our cost, we are not doing a good enough job."
The new store, nestled in the tranquil and quaint Chancery Lane, features a wall built with red clay from BaGua Mountain in Taiwan and a ceiling-to-floor window letting in as much sunlight as possible—meant to convey the warmth and homeliness of the SunnyHills brand and recreate the “slow-living” atmosphere reminiscent of Taiwan. The company’s logo originated from the image of cyclists often populating the county road in front of its headquarters in Taipei.