Modern life is saturated with a seemingly small and rather insignificant word: ‘or’. Labelling and defining things and ideas, and then placing them into simplistic categories like hot or cold, true or false, kind or mean, healthy or unhealthy, and good or bad makes interacting with the world around us easier.
It’s just the way the human brain works. It loves simplicity, which is fine as long as the world behaves as expected. But when it doesn’t – like when faced with an unprecedented pandemic – things can get messy, quickly. That’s when the word ‘and’ comes into play. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Some things can be healthy for some and unhealthy for others. Water can be hot and also a little cold, becoming warm. And things can be both good and bad – like COVID-19.
This pandemic has obliterated businesses, devastated livelihoods and forced struggle upon economies, all while causing a spiking global death toll that shows no signs of stopping. Categorically speaking, that’s bad. Really bad.
On the other hand, the coronavirus pandemic has also created an environment that allows the Himalayas to be seen from homes in India, it’s cleared the canals of Venice and reduced nitrogen dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Whales in Canada’s Bay of Fundy have experienced a significant drop in their stress hormone levels, and greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to fall nearly 8% this year to their lowest levels since 2010.
On top of that, humans are also becoming more proactive in regard to their mental and physical health. All of this is really, really good. So despite what an ‘or’ perception would have us believe, the pandemic has shown to be both good and bad.
“After this pandemic, there’s going to be a brighter future because we are going to rethink the way we go after our health, the way we balance our work and personal life, and the way we manage our body, mind and overall holistic wellness more proactively,” Health and Happiness International Holdings Limited (H&H) Group CEO and Executive Director Laetitia Garnier says.
“The world is changing rapidly, and H&H is in a great position to contribute to that change. There’s a tremendous opportunity for us to be a true advocate of wellness and succeed in our mission to improve people’s lives, making them healthier and happier.”
Discussing the differences between optimism and positivism, Laetitia says it’s important to view the pandemic from an optimistic point of view. “Positivism is looking at the glass as half full. In regards to the pandemic, people are saying things like, ‘It’s OK. Everything is OK.’ But it’s not. Actually, things are not OK,” she says.
“We’re facing a historic crisis and we have to acknowledge those challenges.” That’s where optimism comes in. She says optimism is acknowledging challenges yet looking to the future with confidence, taking note of where opportunity lies.
“I’m really trying to foster this idea of optimism, not just positivism,” Laetitia says. “I’m acknowledging these challenges but also acknowledging that there are a lot of things in front of us that we can achieve in helping to improve people’s lives and being a purpose-led organisation. It’s absolutely key today to be able to not only react, but to proactively act upon change, turning challenges into opportunities with optimism.”
H&H Group got its start in 1999 when Luo Fei founded the company. At that time, it was known as Biostime and was only one brand in one market. By the time 2017 rolled around, the company had grown tremendously, so much so that it even outgrew its name.
“Because of the acquisitions and the fact that we brought more brands on board, we felt the need to redefine our corporate identity,” Laetitia explains. “We came up with Health and Happiness because we had already defined that, as a Group, our mission was to make people healthier and happier.
“We’ve been quite bold in embedding our mission into our name, but that’s the aspirations we have for the company. Giving it the right name was key. So now, every time we say the name of our company, we are reminded of our mission.” Not only is it inspirational, but it also helps the company remain true to its identity.
“Health and Happiness may sound a bit funny, but at least it’s very straightforward,” Laetitia says. “Now we know the role we play, we’re not going to be diversifying outside of the wellness world as there is a lot we can achieve within it.”
H&H has three core businesses, having recently added pet nutrition and care (PNC) to its existing baby nutrition and care (BNC) and adult nutrition and care (ANC). In the BNC segment, the company produces infant formulas, probiotic supplements, baby and children’s food products, nutrition supplements, and diapers and other care products.
The ANC segment offers vitamins, health supplements, skin care and sports nutrition products. H&H has recently acquired America’s first holistic pet nutrition brand, Solid Gold, as a natural extension of its vision to be a leading provider of premium wellness products for the whole family.
There’s a tremendous opportunity for us to be a true advocate of wellness and succeed in our mission to improve people’s lives, making them healthier and happier.
“We’ve acquired six brands in the last five years. All of these acquisitions have helped us develop new segments,” Laetitia says. “For example, with Swisse, which is Australia’s leading natural health brand, we were able to break into ANC. That has been both a geographical expansion and also a category expansion. And now we have about 40% of our business in ANC.”
H&H Group has brought seven international brands together – Biostime, Swisse, CBII, Dodie, Good Goût, Aurelia Probiotic Skincare and Solid Gold – strengthening its global presence with brand centres in Australia, China, France and the US, and four research and development centres in China, France, Ireland and Australia.
“Expanding into new segments and growing our Biostime footprint in more geographies has been a gamechanger for us,” Laetitia says. “We’ve learned how to act local but think more global. We’ve learned how to create synergies with the different brands in different markets and expand, while keeping one culture at a group level and giving each brand its own identity while also coping with different local consumer insights and needs across markets.”
The power of the brand is crucial, according to Laetitia. “Beyond just selling products, the brands themselves are key. They need to stand for something, and they need to have a purpose.”
For example, Swisse is about more than simply selling supplements. It’s an aspirational lifestyle brand that offers a comprehensive approach to wellness through nutrition, mindfulness and movement.
“This holistic wellness concept of a lifestyle brand is something we felt was quite aspirational. And it really resonates with the consumer,” Laetitia says. “So when they choose between product A and product B, of course product differentiation is key, but the message the brand conveys is also really important.”
H&H is also sending out a message of sustainability by becoming a Certified B Corporation. This certification is the most recognised and comprehensive label of sustainability an organisation can have.
“Not only covering environmental criteria, it also looks into the company’s inner workings from governance to relationships with suppliers, all the way to the type of workplace it provides for employees, including equality and diversity approaches.”
“Today, this is the most recognised label for a sustainable organisation. In the world, there are only 3,000 companies that are B Corp certified, and we want to be one of them,” Laetitia says.
“Since COVID-19, a lot of companies have started the process of becoming B Corp certified because now, it’s also becoming a consumer requirement. Consumers are making more responsible choices as to what they buy, and choose the brands and companies that align with their values. So we have to embrace this trend.”
For Laetitia and her team, that means focusing on three main areas: advocating for a healthier life, creating a smaller environmental footprint, and honouring human rights and fairness. “We have a very clear road map and are committed to making it happen,” she says.
“It’s really key for me that we’re not just building a bigger business, we’re building a better business.”
Culture is key
Being confronted by a pandemic has actually benefited H&H on a number of fronts. Not only did it increase the demand for its immune-supporting supplements like probiotics, vitamin C and vitamin D, but it also had a striking impact on the company’s employees.
“The fact that we are a wellness organisation and the mission being to make people healthier and happier has never been more relevant to us,” Laetitia says.
“Our team members are naturally motivated because they come to work with a purpose: to improve people’s wellness. They also feel very grateful and happy to be in a company that is still growing through this very challenging time. Naturally, they’re more motivated because they see all of the other industry challenges around them.”
Laetitia believes that simply being a purpose-led company enhances H&H’s culture. Today, more and more professionals are looking for work that is fulfilling and makes a difference in the lives of others. Securing a job has become about so much more than a pay cheque; it’s become a way to live in true alignment with one’s purpose.
“Of course, salary is important and the position is important, but more and more, just like consumers are buying more responsibly, people are choosing to work for purpose-led brands,” she says.
“We are making and selling products that are good for health, and we’re an organisation that is devoted to growing more sustainably and improving the lives and health of others. This makes our team members feel like they have a purpose when they come to work. This makes people want to work here. We can also retain our talent better because they feel like they’re working with purpose. It creates more value for them.”
A big part of the culture at H&H is also about remaining flexible and up for a challenge. “We have a culture of adaptability and positively embracing change,” Laetitia says. “It’s about doing things first and doing them fast. We try to encourage team members to get out of their comfort zones. While this culture of challenge doesn’t suit everyone, for those that it does, this is a nice place to be because there’s a lot that can be achieved.”
Business partnerships are vital to the ongoing success of an organisation under normal circumstances. During a global health pandemic, they’re even more essential. “We work with very strategic partners,” Laetitia says.
“In this COVID-19 situation, these partnerships have proven to be very precious because they’ve helped us react quickly to maintain production, adapt to all the changes in demand and of the market, and to overall be more adaptable and flexible.”
With the surging demand of key immunity-boosting vitamins during the pandemic, it was crucial for H&H to keep up. Thanks to its key partnerships and incredible teamwork, the company never experienced a lag in its supply.
A company that is flexible can do more and achieve more; it’s better able to transform itself.
“A lot of our key products that typically sell well were just booming in this pandemic environment. We had to continuously adjust supply orders and supply chain needs very quickly,” Laetitia explains.
“And our suppliers remained agile, adapting quickly to our needs. Having them work really hard to keep manufacturing going at times when everything was under lockdown is proof of our strong relationship. In times of challenges and big change, you truly see the strengths of your strategic relationships, the ability of your partners and the long-term gain you’re building together. These relationships have never proven to be more important.”
Beyond the pandemic, key business relationships have also been integral to H&H’s innovation initiatives. “We have a very strong commitment to science and R&D, and focus on finding the right balance between what we do in house and what we do with partners to accelerate our innovation efforts,” Laetitia says.
“This helps us to be agile and collaborative while leveraging the best of our respective capabilities.” H&H also believes that by financially backing startup companies in the health and wellness sphere, it’s investing in its future.
“We encourage companies that have come up with very innovative products and solutions in the wellness space with our innovation fund called NewH2,” Laetitia says. “Then, we establish a partnership with them to help speed up the trends that we think are very key for the future like personalisation and plant-based alternatives.”
In the nutrition space, quality is absolutely paramount. Through the combined power of science and nature, H&H is able to deliver top-notch products to the people who matter most – its consumers.
“More and more with the current environment, we have to put the consumer at the centre of whatever we think and whatever we do,” Laetitia says. “For us, it’s been an amazing challenge to rethink the way we do business, shifting our thinking from inside-in to outside-out.
“It has always been thought that in order for businesses to be successful, they had to be good at being loud about their brand and telling the consumers what they want. It’s been a great humility lesson in learning that’s not necessarily true anymore. Now, it’s all about shifting your branding to let the consumers tell you what they want and engaging with the consumer. It’s really reshaped our thinking and helping how we grow as a business.”
Our team members are naturally motivated because they come to work with a purpose: to improve people’s wellness.
It’s also been the main driver of H&H’s digital transformation. “We obviously live in a digital world and COVID-19 has accelerated that in every part of the business,” Laetitia says.
“Consumers buy more products online, brands connect with their consumers online and now with the explosion of telehealth, everyone’s getting digital – doctors, prescribers and consumers. It’s not just ecommerce.” Knowing this, Laetitia and the team at H&H steadfastly look for ways to digitalise the business from every aspect, creating a better consumer experience.
“It’s a big theme for our future, and the only way for us to win is to excel in this digitalisation,” she says. “We are moving fast because the world is changing fast, and we have to adapt.” In order to do this, she stresses the importance of remaining flexible. “Being flexible gives us strength,” Laetitia says.
“A company that is flexible can do more and achieve more; it’s better able to transform itself. We maintain our strategy, but we also acknowledge that being flexible and adaptable is just so important.”
While H&H has certainly come a long way since its start in 1999, its journey is far from over. “We’re still on this journey to globalise our business, to go into more markets and to ensure our brands are more accessible. It’s very exciting,” Laetitia beams.
“I think we’re very lucky to be in the right industry, especially at this time when health and wellness is definitely the key topic. But again, we don’t want to just be a good company in the right industry; we want to be a better company in the right industry through keeping this agility and flexibility, which is really key.”
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