Achieving the goals of "industrial structure transformation and upgrading" and "high-level opening-up" in the new era of globalization relies heavily on the digitization and brandization of traditional contract manufacturing enterprises.
As an increasing number of cities become pilot zones for processing trade transformation and upgrading, a group of enterprises with production capacity advantages have successfully launched globally recognized proprietary brands through deeper consumer insights, diversified marketing channels, more efficient production processes, and scientific research and development systems.
What processes do manufacturing transformation brands need to undergo? From "selling to the world" to "influencing the world," what challenges do China's manufacturing brands still face? This article reviews ten enterprises with remarkable performances in brand transformation, covering industries such as home furnishings, appliances, and food. It aims to provide insights and considerations for more transitioning manufacturing enterprises.
Founded in 1998, Ecovacs Group（科沃斯集团） specializes in the design, research, development, and manufacturing of service robots and high-end intelligent appliances. It has introduced two major consumer technology brands, "ECOVAC（科沃斯）" and "TINECO（添可）." The Ecovacs brand focuses on products like DEEBOT floor-cleaning robots, WINBOT window-cleaning robots, AIRBOT air-purifying robots, and commercial cleaning solutions. The TINECO brand encompasses floor washers, vacuum cleaners, food processors, hair dryers, and other household appliances.
Ecovacs initially began as an OEM and trading company for traditional vacuum cleaners and transitioned to branding in 2006. In 2012, it established sales subsidiaries in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Los Angeles, USA, followed by a presence in Japan in 2015, significantly accelerating its international branding efforts. Currently, Ecovacs has tapped into markets in over 145 countries and regions, with more than 23,000 employees across 23 countries serving over 50 million households.
Against the backdrop of a cooling global consumer market and a downturn in the home appliance industry, in 2022, while Ecovacs' revenue grew by 17.11% YoY to CNY 15.325 billion, its net profit dropped by 15.51% YoY to CNY 1.698 billion. Inventory also increased by 20.23% YoY to CNY 2.906 billion, posing challenges. However, there's promising growth in overseas revenue for Ecovacs, with a 20.2% YoY increase in revenue for the Ecovacs brand, accounting for 31.8% of total brand revenue; and a 34% YoY increase for the TINECO brand, accounting for 31.6%. The overseas market may drive even stronger growth for Ecovacs in the future.
In 2018, Ecovacs was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
Bear Electric Appliance
Established in March 2006, Bear（小熊电器） is dedicated to the research, design, production, and sales of innovative small home appliances. It covers more than 60 product categories across kitchen appliances, household appliances, personal care appliances, and baby & child appliances, with five major production bases.
Originating as an OEM provider for international household appliance brands, Bear gradually embarked on the path of developing its own brands. In 2022, the company completed a new round of brand upgrading, positioning itself as a provider of "young people's favorite small appliances." Supported by an innovative business model of "creative small appliances + internet," Bear achieved a net profit of CNY 386 million in the 2022 fiscal year, a YoY growth of 36.31%.
Currently, Bear' overseas business encompasses three segments: traditional ODM contract manufacturing, focused on the Japanese, South Korean, and European and American markets, with some products featuring independent preliminary design and development by Xiaomi; the share of its own brand entering foreign markets is gradually increasing, primarily entering Southeast Asian markets through distribution models; and cross-border e-commerce is in its initial stages, primarily using Amazon to sell products in the European and American markets. To foster overseas growth, Bear established an overseas product research and development team, developing differentiated products for various markets, as well as forming dedicated export departments and cross-border e-commerce companies.
Due to industry influences, in 2022, Bear' overseas sales revenue accounted for 4.36% of total revenue, a YoY decrease of 21.84%. However, Chairman and General Manager Li Yifeng stated, "We will definitely not give up on the overseas market and are actively expanding."
In August 2019, Bear was listed on the ChiNext board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, becoming the first publicly listed company focused on creative small home appliances.
Founded in 2010, Kalerm（咖乐美） focuses on the research, production, sales, and service of fully automatic coffee machines with built-in grinders. In September 2011, Kalerm machines debuted at a German exhibition, and the next year, the company established its first production line. After receiving the German Red Dot Design Award and the China Red Star Design Award, Kalerm began aggressively expanding into international markets.
Over the following years, Kalerm participated in various events including the G20 Summit, Global SME Summit, Belt and Road Enterprise Summit, FINA Diving World Cup, China International Import Expo, and the 70th Anniversary of the Chinese Navy. It also visited embassies of coffee bean-producing countries like Ethiopia, Brazil, and Indonesia alongside China's Ministry of Commerce. Currently, the company has achieved a multi-scenario layout of "business + commercial use + home use."
With enhanced manufacturing capabilities and brand influence, Kalerm's coffee machines meet international standards such as UL (USA), TUV (Germany), and EU ROHS. The company's products are sold in over 100 countries and regions globally, with overseas sales reaching over CNY 300 million in 2022.
Established in 2011, Ecolife（伊可普科技） focuses on research and development of water treatment technologies and related product manufacturing and sales. Ecolife covers over 10 water purification product lines, offering more than 300 types of water purification products, with over 100 patented inventions.
Ecolife started as a filter core replacement contract manufacturer and began selling complete products on Amazon in 2016. It established a US subsidiary in 2017 to expand its research and development capabilities. The company now primarily uses its Waterdrop brand for sales, covering Europe, North and South America, Australia, the Middle East, and more than 30 countries and regions. With over 2 million customers, its 2022 sales revenue exceeded CNY 1 billion.
Founded in 2013, Poweroak（德兰明海） specializes in research and innovation of distributed energy storage products and microgrid technologies. It provides solutions for household and commercial photovoltaic energy storage systems, portable energy storage, and DC power storage, including design, development, production, sales, and after-sales service. Its products are sold in over 70 countries worldwide, and it has established branches in Japan, the USA, Germany, Australia, and Nigeria.
The brand BLUETTI（铂陆帝）, a subsidiary of Poweroak, was established in 2019. After releasing its first product in 2020, it formally transitioned from being an OEM manufacturer to embarking on a path of globalized independent branding. Previously, Poweroak served as a supplier for cross-border successes like Anker（安克创新）and Aukey（傲基科技）. According to reports, Poweroak's projected revenue for the year 2023 is expected to reach CNY 5 billion, with a year-on-year growth of 30%. In February of this year, BLUETTI's new product AC500&B300S home energy storage system was launched on Indiegogo, achieving a total crowdfunding amount of USD 12.19 million, marking the best achievement by a Chinese team on a global scale.
During the process of global expansion, Poweroak has demonstrated significant technological and production advantages. With a cumulative total of over 200 patents, including utility models, software copyrights, etc., the patents cover areas such as bidirectional grid-tied inverters, battery management, solar/wind energy control, industrial control, remote control, and related software and hardware systems. Poweroak possesses a self-owned manufacturing system featuring intelligence, automation, and information technology, enabling global traceability of products. The company has obtained certifications such as ISO 9001/14000, IATF 16949, and SA8000. Their products have received international certifications including TUV S-Mark (the first Asian company to achieve this certification), VDE, PSE, KC, BIS, UL, and JIS_C8714.
According to Forbes' "Next-Gen Unicorn List" released in early 2023, Poweroak was promoted to unicorn status in September 2022.
Founded in 2002, Greenworks（格力博） focuses on the research, design, production, and sales of new energy gardening machinery. It offers lithium-ion battery-powered products including handheld grass trimmers, wheel trimmers, lawnmowers, pruners, snow blowers, and all-terrain vehicles.
Starting as an OEM provider, Greenworks shifted towards building its own brands in 2009. It created brands like greenworks and POWERWORKS and acquired the century-old German-European commercial lithium-ion gardening tool brand Cramer in 2018.
Greenworks is a core collaborator for brands such as greenworks, POWERWORKS, and Cramer. Its products have a strong presence on platforms like Amazon and with large retailers like Lowe’s, Walmart, CTC, Costco, The Home Depot, Harbor Freight Tools, Bauhaus, and Leroy Merlin.
Greenworks's competitive edge lies in its vertically integrated global smart manufacturing system, owning over 80% of core components like new energy battery packs, brushless motors, intelligent controllers, and chargers. It possesses over 100 invention patents and has automated and digitized production bases in China and Vietnam.
Greenworks went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange's Growth Enterprise Market in early 2023. Its H1 2022 revenue reached CNY 3.178 billion, with a net profit of CNY 254 million. Overseas revenue accounted for 99.12% of its main operating revenue, and the sales of its own brand products made up 56.97% in 2021.
Hengke-Hitech（恒科科技） was established in 2018 and emerged from the billion-level laser printer industry cluster in Weihai. Its operations span the entire value chain, from technical research and mold manufacturing to metal stamping, injection molding, component spraying, and complete machine assembly. It possesses core laser printing technology and complete machine research and development and manufacturing capabilities.
Starting with supplying Samsung printer components, Hengke gradually became a core collaborator for brands like Samsung, HP, Jabil, and GoerTek（歌尔）. In 2022, Hengke launched its proprietary brand HengAnJie（恒安捷）printer, covering a wide range of products from A4 to A3, monochrome to color, single function to multifunction, aiming to fill the gap in the domestic laser printer market.
Hengke boasts large-scale intelligent manufacturing capabilities with factories spanning over 100,000 square meters and a capacity exceeding 500,000 units. It has established technical and research centers in Weihai and Shanghai.
North American Home
North American Home（铭晋家具/北美之家）, originating from Dongguan, Guangdong Province which is known as the "Furniture Capital" of China, was founded in 2002. Its predecessor was LiDa Furniture Factory, established in 1999 in Dongguan, focusing on the research, production, and sales of American-style furniture. In 2000, its products began to be exported to high-end home markets in Europe and America, becoming a wood furniture supplier for THE HOME DEPOT's exempt inspection category. Subsequently, North American Home successively collaborated with retailers or home brands like POTTERY BARN, WEST ELM, HARBOR HOUSE, LA-Z-BOY, AMERICAN SIGNATURE, DURAVIT from Germany, KINGFISHER from the UK, and others.
In 2009, it also obtained certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) through the United Nations World Nature Foundation's Forest Management Committee, establishing an American-style furniture design team.
In 2012, it introduced its proprietary brand "North American Home" and began expanding in the domestic market, gaining recognition from consumers and partners with styles like Forest Residence, Charleston, and Metropolitan.
Currently, North American Home boasts a production base of over 100,000 square meters and employs over a thousand staff members.
Established in 1982 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, KUKA（顾家家居） focuses on the research, development, production, and sales of custom home products for dining rooms, bedrooms, and full-house customization. The company owns the "KUKA" brand and strategic collaborations with renowned brands such as "ROLF BENZ" from Germany, "ORIENT CASA"（东方荟） for new Chinese-style designs, and "Tianxipai"（天禧派） for light and fashion styles. It also collaborates with American brand LAZBOY and Italian brand NATUZZI.
KUKA's predecessor, KUKA Workshop, was established in Nantong, Jiangsu, providing sofa OEM services globally. In 2007, KUKA HOME's Netherlands brand store opened, and the next year, Gujia participated in the Las Vegas International Furniture Fair, initiating the path of brand internationalization. KUKA has ten manufacturing bases worldwide, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Mexico, and its products are sold in over 120 countries and regions.
KUKA went public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2016.
China Pet Foods
Established in 1998, China Pet Foods（中宠股份）focuses on the research, development, production, and sales of pet food. The company has introduced its proprietary brands such as "Wanpy," "ZEAL," "TOPTREES"（领先） "Happy100," and "King Kitty," covering both dog and cat categories and offering over 1000 product variations. China Pet Foods's products are sold in 67 countries and regions across five continents, with the Wanpy brand available in 55 countries and regions.
China Pet Foods operates 22 modern, high-end pet food production bases and a national-level research center, with eight factories located overseas in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Cambodia. The company has obtained registrations from the US FDA, the European Commission, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Australian DAFF.
China Pet Foods went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2017.
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