Zhu Linyao was born in 1970 in Sichuan province. While studying in Beijing she developed an interest in flavours. On graduating she started a trading business. She discovered that flavours and essences offered a great opportunity.
It is difficult to identify the early course of Zhu’s path to success. She never talks about that part of her life, even to staff, and doesn’t give interviews. Her husband is Lin Guowen, who is currently a Shenzhen delegate to the CPPCC (see WiC52). In 1996 he invested in her business, Huabao Group, with a core focus in the manufacture of tobacco flavourings, such as menthol.
Huabao began working with China’s biggest tobacco mills, entering into joint venture agreements. For example, in 2001 it created Yunnan Tianhong, which became the major provider of flavourings for all the cigarette brands of the Hongta Group. It held 60% of the JV, and Hongta the remainder. By establishing these key partnerships with all the big mills, Zhu built up barriers to entry and cashed in on China’s huge cigarette market (see WiC3).
Food for thought
Viewing tobacco as a fast maturing area, Zhu decided in 2004 to move into food flavours. She established research centres in Shanghai, Yunnan and Guangdong, as well as further afield in Germany. She has focused on working with big food groups such as Danone and Yurun.
Need to know
Huabao International is listed in Hong Kong. Zhu’s stake has been reduced to 65.22%, as she has chosen to cash out on some of her holding. In the first six months of the current financial year, the company made a profit attributable to shareholders of HK$611 million, an 18% increase on the comparable period the year before. According to its website, as of March Huabao was the largest listed flavour and fragrance company in Asia.
She ranked 29 in the 2009 Hurun rich list with assets of Rmb18.5 billion.
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