The food blogging community in China is booming, and many creators have been cashing in big time by touting food products to loyal followers, a business model that has lured investors.
This week, Hong Kong-based startup DayDayCook announced that it has raised $20 million to expand its multifunctional food platform, whose users mainly come from mainland China. The company, founded by banker-turned food blogger and entrepreneur Norma Chu, offers a bit of everything: an app featuring recipes and food videos, cooking classes in upscale malls and a product line of its own branded food products sold online, which makes up 80% of its revenues.
London-based Talis Capital led the funding round, with participation from Hong Kong’s Ironfire Ventures. The eight-year-old startup has raised a total of $65 million to date from investors, including Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, the e-commerce giant’s not-for-profit effort to support young entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The selling point of DayDayCook products is their carefully crafted brand stories. Users first consume the content put out by the startup across social channels, and then they become customers of DayDayCook’s ready to eat or cook food packs, kitchenware and more.
“We really believe in the content-to-commerce model,” said Matus Maar, managing partner at Talis Capital.
He went on to explain that as content creation becomes easier thanks to an abundance of mobile editing tools, “even one person in rural China can make amazing content that creates a huge following.” He was referring to China’s reclusive influencer Li Ziqi who rose to stardom by posting videos on YouTube and domestic sites about her rural self-sufficiency.
“That goes hand in hand with people not wanting to see content that is super polished or comes out of mega agencies. People on the internet want to see authenticity. They want to see people doing real things,” suggested the investor.
While there is a legion of food influencers out there, not all are equipped to build a money-making venture. Matus believes DayDayCook has all the pieces in place: suppliers, distribution, logistics and shipment. By developing its private label products, the startup is also able to sell at higher margins.
Chu said her company has amassed 2.3 million registered users on its own app. Its paid users, ordering through e-commerce channels like JD.com and Alibaba’s Tmall, grew 12 times year-over-year to 2.2 million.
DayDayCook’s content has a wider reach, garnering 60 million followers across microblogging platform Weibo, TikTok’s Chinese edition Douyin, Tencent’s video site and more. That may not seem like a lot in the influencer era — Li Ziqi herself has nearly 12 million subscribers just on YouTube.