Day Day Cook: how a Hong Kong hobbyist chef plans to ride the e-commerce bandwagon to become a household name in China

Norma Chu has attracted US$5 million from investors after turning her blog into a popular series of videos on Facebook, YouTube and teaming up with e-commerce sites to source and sell hard-to-find ingredients

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 9:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 9:01am

A cooking and lifestyle start-up in Hong Kong that developed from a hobby now aims to be in every home in China within three years as it adds e-commerce to its growing presence online.

Day Day Cook was started by Norma Chu almost four years ago as a bilingual blog to record her weekend cooking sessions, but it soon gained a following through Facebook and now draws 120 million monthly views in China.

The success in China has prompted partnerships with e-commerce companies to provide hard-to- source ingredients like dried herbs and quality cuts of meat to its post-1980s audience, many of whom are more sensitive to quality than price.

“Consumers in general are much younger now and don’t know how to use these ingredients, so a lot of e-commerce platforms seek partnerships with us as we are the perfect entry point for the consumer to get in touch with their products,” Chu said.

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Day Day Cook’s expansion from short cooking videos and recipes into e-commerce is supported by a Series A funding round which raised US$5 million from investors including Heyi Capital, 500 Startups and mFund at the beginning of this year.

The start-up targets the 668 million mobile internet users in China. When it launches its e-commerce partnerships in June, it will be tapping into the country’s growing online retail sales market.

New York-based eMarketer expects online retail sales in China to reach US$1.568 trillion in 2018, up from an estimated US$672 billion in 2015.

Day Day Cook will also launch its own range of sauces and services, delivering ingredients in set portions for recipes that China’s aspiring chefs can make at home.

On returning to Hong Kong from Seattle, Washington a decade ago, former banker Chu noticed that while she enjoyed cooking, her friends had little interest in making food at home.

Undeterred, Chu started a cooking blog. She devoted her full attention to Day Day Cook in the second half of 2012, creating recipes that appeal to Hong Kong women in their 30s who want to learn how to make traditional favourites like stewed chicken wings and potatoes, she said.

Day Day Cook now reaches home kitchens across Hong Kong through its website, app, YouTube channel and Facebook page. It can also be seen on outdoor media screens on buses in the city.

It launched in mainland China last year. Now users there can access Day Day Cook recipes via Tencent’s hugely popular mobile chatting app WeChat, on video websites like Youku, or through screens outside.

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Day Day Cook now has a team of 27 based in Shanghai creating recipes tailored to Chinese tastes, but Chu shoots her cooking shows in Hong Kong.

“A lot of kids or families might not have the time, or they might not have the awareness, of the benefits of home cooking, so that basically presents a lot of opportunity for us to educate the audience on why they should cook at home,” she said.

She said her average viewer is younger in mainland China than in Hong Kong, where her viewership also skews more heavily in favour of women.

The Day Day Cook team is now working on a travel cooking show shot on 360-degree cameras. It shows Chu cooking up a storm in Shanghai, Australia, Japan and Vietnam.