Founded in 2016, Yuanqi Senlin specialises in the production of sugar-free and low-calorie beverages. Better known as Genki Forest in the English-language press, its product range includes sparkling waters, milk teas and yoghurts.
Annual revenues reached Rmb3 billion in 2020, of which sales of sparkling water accounted for more than 70%.
The company was set up by Tang Binsen, a former boss of a gaming company that developed one of China’s top-grossing apps. Tang decided to exit the gaming sector because of competitive pressures from much larger players like Tencent, but he kept to his roots in positioning Yuanqi Senlin as a health-conscious tech start-up. He has talked about making the company into the ‘Coca Cola of China’ and the brand has been effective in using social media to tap into younger consumers willing to pay more for a healthier product.
However, the brand’s advertising strategy ran into controversy this year on the basis that its ‘sugar-free’ drinks actually contained sugar substitutes, and so should not be classed as zero sugar. Yuanqi Senlin then issued an apology about the product labelling and promotion of its milk teas, saying that the wording on the packaging had been changed. The criticism has also seen it double down on its commitment to erythritol as a low-calorie sweetener, despite it being much costlier than normal sugar.
Yuanqi Senlin announced its latest financing in April 2021 on a post-investment valuation of $6 billion, up three times on a year earlier. Investors include Sequoia, Gaorong, LFC, Warburg Pincus and Temasek.
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