Fresh off its IPO, ST Group looks to further sweeten Australia's dessert scene

CEO Tatt Ghee Saw talks about their newest Japanese concept.

ST Group’s recent listing on Singapore’s Catalist board brought a unique piece to an ultra-competitive puzzle of established food and beverage offerings in the Lion City.

Whilst competitors have firmly entrenched themselves in the island-nation, the group has yet to have a single outlet in Singapore.

They, however, are not strangers to the foodservice markets in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, continuing to make its presence felt through the Gong Cha, PappaRich, Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart and NeNe Chicken brands, among others.

Recently, the company secured the exclusive franchise license to operate the South Korean fried chicken chain in New Zealand, having entered into an agreement with Hyein Foods for an initial term of 10 years with an option to renew for another decade.

The company’s newest venture, KURIMU, set to offer custard-filled eclairs inspired by Japanese desserts, is not only a continuation of that momentum but a microcosm of their listing, aiming to find its own sweet spot amid Australia’s growing dessert scene.

“We personally believe that Asian desserts are a big opportunity to break into the Australian market. This has been proven with the success of Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart and PAFU, which were welcomed into the market with open arms and eager taste buds,” ST Group CEO Tatt Ghee Saw said in an exclusive interview.

“As the Japanese culture and food industry has always been an attraction for people around the world, this motivates us to bring more Japanese inspired desserts to the Australian dessert scene. By bringing in the culture and introducing quality products, we believe we will be able to bring something unique and delicious to the Australian dessert scene."

A fresh take on pastry

KURIMU will offer the market freshly baked choux pastry covered with nutty creme patisserie topping. Tatt Ghee said that the brand is a counterpoint to many of its competitors in the QSR space that distribute sweets and baked goods that are not fully made on premises using fresh and local ingredients.

A recent Euromonitor International report that found that in-house bakeries within supermarket chains are growing due to consumer preferences of freshly baked goods over prepackaged ones. At KURIMU, Tatt Ghee said, customers are given the freedom to observe an open floor space where they can watch their choux pastries come fresh out of the oven, and piped to order with creamy crème da la crème filling.

“One of the core pillars that we at the ST Group pride ourselves on, is our interactive stores, allowing consumers to see the process, from start to finish,” he said.

In an increasingly competitive industry that is being transformed by the rise of anti-sugar and gluten-free trends, KURIMU looks to be a brand that seeks to succeed by the strength of its product and the growing confidence of its parent.

Tatt Ghee recognized the continued evolution and expansion of Australia’s dessert scene, and the challenges that come with introducing a new concept in an already crowded segment.

“Due to social media, and a large portion of Australians being able to travel overseas, there are currently more and more varieties of exotic product offerings popping up in the market to cater for consumer demands and desires, making it an extremely competitive market,” he said.

“Consumers are now extremely educated on exotic desserts, with their expectations at an all time high, that’s why it’s crucial for Kurimu to ensure the product offerings are different, of the highest quality and the shop itself is fun and inviting.”

“We believe in our brand completely”

Tight competition has made fluctuating prices in dairy products a challenge in balancing cost competitiveness and quality. Meanwhile, as a grab-and-go concept, another crucial point for the brand is its location. KURIMU would need to be strategically placed to secure a foothold on the market, if it wants to make a niche for itself.

Yet despite the odds, Tatt Ghee is nothing if not confident.

“For a grab-and-go concept store like ours, finding a good location is always a big challenge. It’s always going to be a challenge to successfully launch a new product into the market, especially initially to a state/city with such high food standards and expectations such as Melbourne – but we believe in our brand completely and know that what we have to offer is new, exciting and most importantly, extremely delicious and fresh,” he said.

KURIMU plans to expand with one or two more stores in Victoria before venturing interstate, seeking to create a strong brand presence in the region’s dessert market before setting its sights further. But if the success of any of the ST Group’s brands are anything to go by, the small Japanese pastry chain can go much further than that.

“With an eye for spotting trends, we are passionate about this treat and are keen to share it with Australia,” Tatt Ghee said.

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