Our name was inspired by the ancient Silk Road trade route facilitating exchange between the West and China. We believe the word ‘silk’ represents not only China, but also our clients’ intentions as this sophisticated fabric requires a detailed metamorphosis before becoming something ultimately more spectacular and refined. The word ‘Initiative’ pretty much sums up both our clients and the team at TSI – the willingness to constantly challenge our own boundaries when it comes to finding opportunities for food and beverage brands in China. China is a complex and dynamic market requiring a constantly energized and flexible mindset to enact change.
we work with
Who we work for
We work with global CEOs, CMOs, marketing directors, brand owners and insights professionals responsible for China food and beverage strategy. These are often clients who already have teams on the ground in China, but are often too stretched with their day-to-day operations to provide thorough thinking on strategy and insights work.
These decision-makers need laser focus, big thinking, credible methods, and thoughtful action with a client-consulting team that has the agility to navigate across various time zones and connect with internal and external partners.
The space we fit in
With nearly 50 years of collective experience in marketing, research and insights—two decades of that in China alone—we believe we occupy a pretty special place that incorporates marketing consulting, insights, business consulting and creative strategies. We believe we are also nimble enough to meet the evolving needs of our clients as a go-to lead agency on all things strategy-related in the food and beverage space.
Our core competencies reside in the following areas…
Is there a business opportunity for your brand in China and what’s required for success? Who will buy it and why? What will your message to the China market need to be?
We provide clarity in the complex and often unpredictable Chinese market through our knowledge of trends, consumer habits, behaviors and drivers. We help you determine what your fundamental brand proposition and message needs to be to resonate with target consumers in China.
Explore & Modify
Is your marketing mix China ready? Should you modify your product offering and taste profile? Does your pack format and design need more work? How about your portfolio architecture and pricing structure?
Our experience allows clients to explore and identify white spaces, new connections and expansion opportunities through the development and testing of new product ideas and concepts and communication ‘big ideas’ and graphic visual and functional usage design development of packaging.
Validating your brand messaging, brand naming, product concepts and pack expressions before taking the initial plunge allows you to avoid any premature mistakes while helping predict the potential commercial return for your brand.
We validate brand concepts, product ideas and packaging by talking not just to consumers, but also potential distributors and retail partners who are fundamental to adopting your brand and ensuring its success.
Many brand integrity issues in China come down to poor distributor and retail execution. Proper management of these partners is integral for your continued success in China.
Given our vast network within the food and beverage industry we help to identify the best legal compliance, import, distribution and retail partners to ensure everyone is supporting your brand in a way that your target consumers want to see it.
How you reach and engage with Chinese consumers can be a constantly moving target.
Through our work, we develop an intimate understanding of your brand and what’s needed for success in the market. Our strategy doesn't just stop at strategy alone – we want to ‘see in’ your activation with you. You’ll see us working closely with you and your advertising, digital or PR activation agencies in alignment workshops to help ‘land and write’ creative directions, as well as the creative brief needed for your agency partners to produce great work. Once creative and activation tactics are ready, we will put these through rigorous consumer testing and continue to work with agency partners until we arrive at tactics and a plan that truly captures your target consumer’s attention.
We utilize world-class qualitative and quantitative research tools to help ensure solid strategic direction for our engagements. Depending on engagement need and budget we utilize online and offline, primary and secondary sources.
Managing Director, Founder
Andrew is a strong believer in being ‘always on’ for his clients and 100% authentic and sincere at all times. He’s a natural connector who has built a sizable network in China that brings immense value to TSI’s clients, and he’s passionate about what he does, investing considerable effort to solve his clients’ challenges, no matter how big they may be.
Andrew, a native Australian, has over 15 years of experience developing market entry, brand and product strategies for clients across Asia-Pacific and North America. Before launching TSI in 2015, he spent nearly 10 years working in Shanghai, with previous roles as Executive Director at Ipsos and Managing Director of MMR; and five years in New York as a VP of Consumer Research at the Nielsen Company.
At TSI, Andrew works closely with global giants such as Campbell’s, PepsiCo, Tyson and McCain across a range of brand strategy engagements for the Asia market. Though, some of his most memorable projects are for his Australian clients including one of Australia’s largest lobster companies, Brolos, where he helped create a new consumer-branded lobster for the China market. He’s also worked extensively with Australia’s most iconic chocolate biscuit, Tim Tam, to develop a new brand for China including brand naming, campaign big idea and packaging development—and SPC where he helped create the first fully imported fruit snack pack brand for the China market.
When he’s not experimenting with new Chinese and Middle Eastern recipes in his kitchen, Andrew enjoys exploring Shanghai on his bicycle, walking his Shiba Inu, and practicing his bagpipes—much to the delight of his neighbours.
Senior Vice President of Client Engagement – North America
Susan is a marketing insights strategist and client service executive who has devoted her career to developing data-led marketing strategies that drive new product success. She thrives on creating partnerships with clients to develop a learning platform for fact-based decision making.
Susan leads the TSI business in North America where she serves as a local partner to our US clients. As a marketing innovation veteran with expertise and passion around driving organic growth, she is a trusted consultative advisor when leading and mentoring client support teams.
During her more than 25 years at Nielsen/BASES, she led the client teams for many of the major global F&B companies including Nestle, Unilever, Kraft and Pepsi, becoming their trusted innovation advisor from ideation all the way through product launch/relaunches.
Her strengths are around her interpersonal skills, her analytical business acumen, high energy level, and persistence that have helped her to successfully navigate complex organizations to drive positive outcomes for her clients.
Susan’s passion for the food and beverage industry began early in life. She holds a BS in Food Science from Cornell University and an MBA in Marketing from Columbia University. She is based in the New York metro area and enjoys the theatre, cooking and discovering great restaurants in New York. She embraces the outdoors and for recreation enjoys hiking, playing golf and skiing. Her love of food extends with her love to travel—wherever she goes, she makes a point of sampling as much of the local cuisine as possible
Executive Director, Client Strategy
Manohar subscribes to the adage, ‘The loftier the building, the deeper the foundations must be.’ For him, the foundations are a firm grounding in statistics and consumer behaviour, built over a 17-year career in strategy, insights and consultancy.
Manohar’s experience spans the Asian continent. Prior to joining TSI in late 2016, he spent 11 years in Shanghai working at Synovate China and IFOP Asia with a focus on the Greater China, North Asia and Southeast Asia markets. Before that, he was a South Asia specialist at BBDO and TNS while based in India for five years.
At TSI, Manohar has been instrumental in helping various clients with their business issues – for Lipton Tea, he has helped them understand the category decline in China and the remedial actions that needed to be taken to save their brand, for Simplot, Manohar is helping them decide on their market entry strategy and track various marketing trends including premiumization, wellness and connectivity/mobility.
Manohar has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, but flying is what he’s most passionate about. He’s currently training for his private pilot license.
Senior Director, Client Services
Ronnie is a seasoned marketer who has worked for some of the world’s most well-known consumer facing brands. He’s always thinking of creative solutions to address difficult problems and enjoys the challenge of building successful brands in competitive environments.
Throughout his career, Ronnie has led the charge in launching the first ever China-exclusive premium brand from the house of Rémy Martin. He also played an instrumental role in developing and organizing some of Pepsi’s largest marketing campaigns to date in China such as Battle of the Bands TV music competition and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo campaign. At TSI, Ronnie’s expertise in higher level brand strategy work helps our client partners develop brand and marketing plans as well as early activation/execution ideas alongside their creative agencies.
He is an avid technology enthusiast and often spends too much money collecting gizmos that become obsolete too soon. He is also the owner a business selling organic free-range chicken in Taiwan.
Senior Client Manager
Joel believes the secret to driving impact in a market as fast-changing as China is being adaptable and quick to learn new things. He also has a sharp marketing mind and practical research toolkit.
These attributes have helped Joel deftly manoeuvre his way through a number of challenging projects at TSI. He helped develop a market-entry strategy tor the Australian yoghurt brand Bulla by doing a deep-dive into the category to identify the main competition in China and determine how the client could best position itself to reach its target consumers. He also worked with Kjeldsens, the Danish cookie brand, on a different kind of challenge—how to reposition its brand to stand out in a marketplace crowded with low-cost imitators.
Before joining TSI, Joel worked on the global innovation team at Reckitt Benckiser, where he helped to adapt new products for global markets, such as a home air freshener for the India, Brazil and China markets.
Joel doesn’t consider himself a ‘foodie’, but he makes an effort to try a new, exotic Chinese dish every weekend in Shanghai. When it’s warm enough, he takes his bike out for a spin on weekends or hops on the train to see different parts of the country.
Senior Client Consultant
Grace is one of TSI’s ace moderators for the many consumer focus groups we conduct in China. She also manages many of our home immersions and in-store consumer shopping sessions with clients.
She’s worked with many of TSI’s largest clients, including Tyson Foods, Tim Tam, Arla and Sanger Beef Australia, and always strives to build a cultural bridge between clients and consumers through her knowledge of local customs and behaviours.
An excellent communicator, Grace knows the right questions to ask consumers at the right moment, and just what to say to make people feel comfortable.
Prior to joining TSI, Grace worked for a Chinese design consultancy where she led projects on innovation in packaging and visual identity.
Grace is an avid reader of feminist writers and considers the biography of Katherine Graham one of her favourite books. And to relieve stress at the end of the workweek, she grabs her watercolours and heads for a park to paint.
Creative Services Manager
Having lived in China and Taiwan for more than 20 years, Leigh-Anne is not only fluent in Mandarin but has a deep understanding of the complexities and unique dynamics involved in turning a good idea into reality in China. She has more than 15 years of experience in China food and beverage and event management and also served as Operations Director at the U.K. Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and was Project Director of Gongyi Xintiandi (The Nest), a Shanghai government initiative to spur social sector development.
Joining TSI in late 2016, Leigh-Anne has enabled TSI’s knowledge and key insights on China to reach a broader audience through content collaborations with influential domestic publications like China Briefing Magazine, as well as overseas media, such as FoodMag Australia and FoodBevMedia, the UK and Europe’s largest provider of the latest news in food & beverage innovation and trends around the world, for whom TSI is the 1st Asia based consultancy to contribute monthly China insight-focused multimedia content. Leigh-Anne also plays a key role in TSI’s creative services team as workshop designer and facilitator for clients’ new product innovation and creative execution projects.
She likes to stay as active as possible when she’s not working, practicing Muay Thai and getting creative in Shanghai’s experimental theatre scene.
Kat has a strong quantitative grounding from her three years of working in communications strategy at Millward Brown in both China and the Philippines where she was able to hone her skills in survey development, copy testing skills, and diving deep into data and extracting a creative and succinct story out of it. She is drawn towards the space of building new brands and helping them gain a strong foothold in the local market – from crafting brand concepts, shaping product innovations, to optimising pack designs.
At TSI, Kat recently helped facilitate a project for Tim Tam biscuits to evaluate new television advertising strategies for China, resulting in market-tested solutions ready to roll out in-market. Always up for a diverse experience, she spends a big chunk of her time working on different ad-hoc initiatives exposing her to a wide array of exciting categories beyond food and beverage. Right now she’s trying to crack the code on how to position Australia’s largest meat pie brand in China!
Prior to joining the company, Kat gained valuable experience working with prominent brands such as Unilever and Nestle in product categories ranging from coffee to yoghurt to shampoo.
Kat considers herself a ‘frustrated baker’ who tries to improve her skills with new recipes every week. A nature lover, she also dreams of retiring early and building a small hut in the mountains (with Wifi, of course).
Cooper comes from a marketing and sales background and has experience working in supply chain coordination and quality control. As a result, he has a knack for attention to detail and knows exactly what to do to ensure the smooth running of a project.
Cooper has his hand in nearly every project at TSI, ranging from project management to logistics to qualitative research including interviewing consumers. He’s particularly adept at understanding the competitive landscape for clients in China (including semiotic development), as well as advertising and claims messaging and what’s needed to cut through in the China market.
When he’s not playing his guitar, Cooper enjoys wandering the streets of Shanghai with his camera looking for stories to tell through his photographs. He’s also one of the few young people left in the city (perhaps country?) who prefers old-school film to digital photography.