The group signed a 20-year franchise agreement for Malaysia with Cha Thai International Company Limited, the brand owner of ChaTraMue in Bangkok recently, an August 15 press release announced.
The F&B group has plans to open eight to 10 outlets of ChaTraMue this year, aiming to ramp up expansion next year to bring the store count to 40 by the end of 2024.
“Woodpeckers Group is committed to develop the market and for that, the principal is willing to give us the national exclusivity,” Tan Kai Young, the director of Woodpeckers Group shared with Vulcan Post.
He elaborated that his team has been familiar with ChaTraMue as the “top-selling Thai milk tea” brand, and thus decided to explore this opportunity with them.
“Once we met, we hit it off fairly quickly,” he said.
That said, the press release reported that negotiations had taken months as Cha Thai International was extremely careful in awarding any national franchise.
However, its managing director, Ms Srisuporn Chaturongkavanich, was confident that Woodpeckers would grow the brand well in Malaysia.
“Cha Thai International chose us because we’re a group that is passionate about transforming the F&B landscape by leading a shift in taste and consumer preferences in Malaysia and beyond,” Kai Young said.
A brief history of ChaTraMue
Pronounced as “Cha-Tra-Mer”, the Thai tea brand started in 1945, though its origins can be traced further back to 1920.
That was the year that eight siblings had migrated from China to Thailand, according to the press release. The third brother, named Sa Pae, opened a Chinese tea shop (Lim Maeng Kee) and sold imported Chinese tea products.
But disaster struck after 20 years of business. It was during World War II, and a bomb ended up destroying the shop, forcing them to relocate to a new area in Yaowarat, also known as Chinatown.
However, hot tea failed to capture Thai consumers. Hence, in 1945, the company pivoted to import red tea and created Thai tea and black tea recipes, serving them chilled with ice.
With that, the ChaTraMue brand was born.
It’s been in Malaysia before
However, those outlets appear to have since shut down.
While Woodpeckers Group said they were not involved in those arrangements and thus are not able to discuss this, they shared that the closures had nothing to do with them acquiring the national exclusive franchise.
They also clarified that they are the first franchisee outside of Thailand for the brand, and that the previous operators had a different arrangement with ChaTraMue.
“Now with the brand under us, we’re confident we’ll take the brand to a new level in Malaysia,” Kai Young said.
The group shared that ChaTraMue outlets in Malaysia will have a similar menu to what is offered in Thailand, using the same Thai tea leaves.
“We have decided to start off with the sure-fire favourites first and gradually add on items into the menu, working closely with the principal,” the director added.
However, Thai tea is nothing new to Malaysia, with many Thai restaurants and chains serving it already. Kai Young believes that ChaTraMue’s tea stands out from the rest, though, as it uses a special kind of Thai tea leaves produced exclusively for the brand.
Leveraging their expertise
With their experience operating the yoghurt brand llaollao in Malaysia, Woodpeckers Group has confidence in growing the ChaTraMue presence in Malaysia too, believing that it has the “right team with the right chemistry and formula”.
“We have the processes and systems in place to ensure a high success rate for our brands, especially IIaoIIao, and we shall now apply them to ChaTraMue,” Kai Young said.
The director also claimed that before Woodpeckers Group entered the field, traditional desserts dominated the market. Today, healthy frozen yoghurt has become a common go-to when it comes to a treat.
“That is what we at Woodpeckers bring to the table,” he said.
He shared that the Woodpeckers team has already expanded in preparation for the newly-acquired franchise. The company also aims to continually grow its current workforce of over 400 at its headquarters and throughout its network of outlets.
When asked about whether the company is actively growing its portfolio of brands, Kai Young said, “While we can’t share further specifically, I’ll say that we aim to transform the F&B landscape through leading a shift in taste and consumer preferences in Malaysia and beyond.”
Other than llaollao and now ChaTraMue, Woodpeckers Group also runs its own casual fine-dining restaurant, TBC.
So far, no ChaTraMue outlet location in Malaysia has been officially announced yet, but Kai Young revealed that the team has done initial surveys and plans to open up in malls in the Klang Valley and Putrajaya.
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Featured Image Credit: Woodpeckers Group