Harvey drinks chocolate in the Solomon Islands

It’s a long way to the shop for a local alternative to Milo.

July 15, 2023

Getting a local drinking chocolate one step closer to market

Our brilliant Jane-of-all-trades Sarah is fresh home from a trip to the Solomon Islands, helping a local drinking chocolate get one massive step closer to market. The Solomons export organic cocoa (inexpensively) to the world, but their drinking chocolate is all imported by (expensive) multinationals like Nestle and Milo. As you might imagine, their local economy is not a winner in this equation.

Introducing KOSI

Enter KOSI, a leading Solomons company that’s been producing coconut products (like body scrubs and delish virgin coconut oil) for 20 years. KOSI exists to improve Village livelihoods by investing in local production. And they’ve just added a new product range made from locally grown and manufactured coco; including the Solomons’ first homemade drinking chocolate.

Sarah jetted over to KOSI HQ to help co-founder Colin, product manager Maureen, and Bob with product testing, customer research, packaging design and rollout. KOSI are working in partnership with Strongim Bisnis, an Australian Government initiative helping Solomons businesses prosper.

Colin, Maureen and Bob at the KOSI office

Creating a Healthier Alternative

The goal was to create a local, healthier alternative to popular products like Milo, which come in single-serve sachets that are mixed with powdered milk and a bunch of other preservatives. KOSI drinking chocolate will also come in single sachets, but inside is organically grown sugar and cocoa, and that’s it. All locally produced.

We wanted to know what kind of design would appeal most to local customers. So we worked with a Solomons team to come up with six variations of the new KOSI sachets, each one with a different label.

Sachets with different stickers
Locally produced drinking chocolate

Designing for Local Customers

Some designs were bright and had borders, others had the Solomon Island flag on it, which we had a sneaking suspicion would work best with our nationally proud audience. But before we got to the label, we needed to know if the term ‘drinking chocolate’ meant anything to our customers. Or did they simply call it Milo? Was it a hot or cold drink in the Solomons? All the big burning questions.  

Sarah trained the KOSI team on the fundamentals of customer research: data collection, interviewing, setting up a research booth and tasting station, and coordinating prototypes. Once everyone felt ready, the team chose a role: host, technician, tasting or brand researcher. Next, it was time to hit the shops.

Team training in Customer Research at KOSI HQ

The two phase research booth

Phase 1. Blind-tasting

  • 2 x KOSI products
  • 2 x competitor products
  • All products were mixed up and drunk by participants. We recorded everybody’s feedback on taste and texture.

Phase 2. Brand perception

  • 6 x sachet designs
  • All six variations of the KOSI sachets were presented. Participants were asked about preferred colours, imagery and price perceptions
Sarah and the KOSI team at the research booth
A variation of the KOSI drinking chocolate packaging
Understanding local preferences

Here are some things they learned:

  • Locals mix Milo with hot water, not milk!
  • Getting attention from passersby was easy. The booth was new and exciting and many people stopped to join in
  • Getting detailed feedback was challenging, as many of the people surveyed were unfamiliar with customer research formats. Plus Sarah doesn’t speak Pigin, which is the local language. So some of the feedback got lost
  • The KOSI product samples were higher in coco than the competitors, which was an unfamiliar flavour among the participants. Many considered the taste too rich
  • Sarah thought the Solomon Islands had a sweeter palette compared to Australia
  • Parents were looking for a healthier alternative to Milo, which was fantastic news
  • Locals are really proud of where they come from and loved seeing their flag on the sample packaging

We’re so grateful to the KOSI and Strongim Bisnis team for welcoming Sarah into the community. And very keen to see some KOSI drinking chocolate on the shelves soon.

Stay tuned for more on the Strongim Bisnis + KOSI journey.

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