In 2020, Chef Shinya Tajima moved from Japan to Singapore to expand his bakery business across the city-state.
Although Singapore’s market size is smaller than that of Japan, the Nagoya-born pâtissier viewed Singapore’s melting pot of cultures and nationalities as the “perfect base for global expansion”.
I have the impression that many customers seek quality rather than quantity in Singapore. And given that people of various cultures and nationalities live in the city-state, their needs and demand for chocolate are also diverse.– Shinya Tajima, founder and CEO, DADACA Group
Despite arriving in Singapore at the thick of COVID-19, the chef spent his time sampling various desserts and cakes, which eventually led him to acquire homegrown bakery chain Chocolate Origin in 2021.
The 41-year-old later established DADACA Group, a company which manages both Chocolate Origin and its sub-brand, CACAOCAT, a premium chocolate brand with ingredients sourced from Hokkaido.
He owned up to 200 bakeries in Japan
Chef Shinya started his first bakery business in Japan when he was just 20 years old. At the height of his 18-year-long career, he owned up to 200 bakeries in Japan, which were mainly based in Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture.
The pâtissier is also behind various viral concepts and products in Japan, such as the Heart Bread Antique bakery chain and Neko Neko Shokupan, a bakery named after its star offering, cat-shaped milk bread.
Despite his success in the land of the rising sun, Chef Shinya’s dreams of establishing a global company drove him to launch DADACA Group in Singapore.
However, setting up a company in a market that is already saturated with global chocolate companies was no easy feat for the seasoned pâtissier.
To differentiate its products, he chose to focus on Japanese chocolates as part of the company’s offerings. “We also chose the theme of cats to represent our brand and differentiate ourselves from competitors,” Chef Shinya adds.
Cats typically symbolise friendliness and healing, and through both CACAOCAT and Chocolate Origin, the chef aims to provide not just chocolates but also create a delightful and comforting experience that resonates with customers on a personal level.
He had to close down his cat-themed cafe
When Chef Shinya first acquired Chocolate Origin and launched CACAOCAT, the company received immense demand from customers.
Although its offerings were well received, the surge in demand ultimately outpaced the company’s production. “We could not keep up with the rapid increase in demand, and there were times when products were out of stock,” he admits.
Chef Shinya also faced another significant setback when the cafe he launched last December, Catbake, which offered his famous cat-shaped milk bread, had to be shut down for “undisclosed reasons”.
Learning from past mistakes, the company has now made it “a top priority to strengthen its production system” and is doubling down on its expansion across the city-state. Currently, DADACA Group operates 13 Chocolate Origin and CACAOCAT stores in Singapore and is in the midst of opening a new store in Woodlands MRT.
In addition to this, DADACA Group also has plans underway to launch a bakery and baked goods business in 2024.
Working towards achieving S$1 billion in sales
Apart from Singapore, DADACA Group offers CACAOCAT and Chocolate Origin products in various other markets, including Japan, the United States, Korea, Shanghai, Brunei, and Cambodia. In order to achieve further growth, the Group, as a whole, has plans to extend its reach into additional international markets.
In particular, the company is looking to aggressively expand Chocolate Origin into countries with large Muslim populations, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and UAE, given that its products are halal-certified.
At the same time, the Group is also looking to expand and bolster CACAOCAT’s presence in the Asian market, including in countries such as China and Vietnam.
A key strategy driving these expansion plans involves the acquisition of franchisees and distributors in international markets.
In line with its expansion goals, DADACA Group is also working towards achieving S$1 billion in sales to “lead its business to sustained and sustainable growth”. To realise this, the Group is ramping up its efforts in innovative product development, production processes and marketing strategies.
Ultimately, DADACA Group aims to build a brand that is “loved by people around the world through the provision of high-quality chocolate and confectionery”.
Our goal is to establish ourselves as a well-loved and trusted brand worldwide by providing consumers with a choice of high-quality chocolates and confectionery.– Shinya Tajima, founder and CEO, DADACA Group
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Featured Image Credit: DADACA Group