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Snail cream, smelly fruit: Thai cosmetics, food firms tap into Chinese tourism boom

Reuters  |  BANGKOK 

By Chayut Setboonsarng

(Reuters) - The label on the pink and white box of face cream sold in a hypermarket proudly declares that it is based on a "snail secretion filtrate moisture system". The Snail White branding - plus some - is enough to have Chinese tourists recently lining up to buy the slime-infused product.

Alice Chen, 21, a Chinese college student, says she saw the face cream reviewed online and wanted to try it out because she couldn't get it back home. And a 22-year-old Chinese tourist also at the Big C Ratchadamri store, who only gave her name as Yvonne, said she bought some - it retails at about $40 a box - because "a blogger said it was good and inexpensive."

Meanwhile, at a dessert cafe just up the road in Bangkok's upscale Siam Paragon shopping center, another group of Chinese tourists take pictures on their phones of whimsical treats made from durian - the yellow fruit known for its sulfury smell that is mainly grown in

For a graphic on rise in Chinese tourists in Thailand, click https://reut.rs/2IakiVB

About 11 million Chinese tourists are expected to come to this year, up from just over 1 million in 2010, making by far the biggest source of tourism here. And they are spending more per head than previously, according to figures.

And it isn't only the hotels, tour operators and airlines that are benefiting. A big slice of this spending is with retailers, restaurants, and and cosmetics makers that target the Chinese audience.

Investors have taken note, driving up the share prices of many of the companies concerned to high price-to-earnings ratios. So far, in some cases, that securities analysts say they are wary of valuations, especially as tourists' tastes can change rapidly.

Do Day Dream Pcl, the company behind the skin-whitening Snail White cream, is one. Boxes of the firm's signature cream, which the firm says it makes from snail slime extracted using a process done in South Korea, are stacked high at Thailand's airports and malls as it has become a must-buy item for many Chinese visitors who covet paler skin.

ales of the Snail White products have been skyrocketing since 2014 as beauty bloggers in Hong Kong and gave them rave reviews, according to Do Day Dream

In 2017, the company's revenue ballooned 35 percent to 1.7 billion baht ($52 million) as the company also built a strong Thai domestic market and grew direct to Chinese consumers. It also sells other snail secretion-based products, including shower gel and lotions.

The sales to visitors are at risk, he said, if for any reason there is a sudden drop off in Chinese tourists. That happened briefly in 2015 and 2016 when the made it much more difficult for the tour operators offering really cheap packages to the Chinese - known as "zero-dollar tours".

Exports to produced 30 percent of its revenue last year, Piyawat said. That is more than the 10-15 percent that comes from Chinese tourists buying in

There is also increasing competition in the niche world of snail slime products. visited a snail farm in that provides the secretion to a manufacturer that sells it either in its original form or after turning it into a powder for use in cosmetics around the world.

FORBES' RICHEST LIST

Another Thai beauty firm that sells color cosmetics and skincare products, Beauty Community, is also seeing substantial growth.

said he expects tourists from and to account for 15 percent of revenue, which will help him reach a 20 percent growth target this year.

Suwin, a physician-turned-businessman, and Do Day Dream founder both for the first time made this year's Richest 50 Thai's list compiled by

Another sweet success story is After You. The popular dessert restaurant has 28 cafes throughout Bangkok, with six in popular tourist destinations such as shopping malls and along the skytrain line.

The cafe, known for long queues and its Shibuya - a block of bread served with ice cream - was initially popular among Singaporean and Malaysian customers.

But in 2016, Chinese tourists began to pour into the cafes, said After You

"Tourists see our long queues, a picture on or read a great review and want to try," he said.

After You has capitalised on the flow of Chinese customers to set up 'durian rooms' last year offering fresh durian desserts specifically aimed at the fruit's lovers. Durian is often banned in taxis and hotels and airlines around because of its pungent smell.

The company plans new branches and durian rooms in top Thai tourist destinations outside of and it also plans to start a franchise model in next year, said Maetup.

Chinese tourists are also snapping up savory snacks. Taokaenoi's crispy seaweed snack has been a hit for years.

About 20 percent of Taokaenoi's 2017 domestic sales were to tourists, the company's Head of Investor Relations, Koosoon Rattanaporn, said, while 60 percent came from exports, nearly half of them to China.

COMMANDING PREMIUMS

The benefits of Chinese demand and expectations of further supercharged growth are clearly reflected in share prices.

For a graphic on revenue growth at selected Thai companies, click tmsnrt.rs/2JZDgM0

Investors are paying 52 times earnings for the Do Day Dream shares, well above the Thai personal product industry average of 21 times, and After You's shares are trading at 79 times earnings, while Taokaenoi's prices are 43 times earnings.

There is expectation of higher earnings because these companies are in the "growth stage of their business life cycle," said CGS-Thailand

Domestic consumption has slowed in recent years so investors are willing to "pay a premium" for firms with plans to diversify to the Chinese market, she said.

($1 = 32.1600 baht)

(Additional reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Martin Howell)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 18 2018. 14:57 IST
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