“Whether it’s agriculture or livestock, Taiwan is mostly composed of individual households. The cost of transformation is high, and some haven’t even begun the digitization process, let alone talk about ‘digital transformation’ and ‘zero-carbon transformation’! In many Asian countries, when it comes to sustainable transformation, the livestock industry is a relatively easily ‘forgotten’ sector due to numerous challenges. However, some individuals choose to forge a unique path and boldly explore new horizons.
Kevin Wu, CEO of Nice Garden Industrial and director of the Taiwan Digital Enterprise Association (TDEA), discussed the challenges of the livestock industry in sustainable transformation during an interview with《The Icons》. He first pointed out the difficulties, including increased environmental costs, continuous market contraction, and factors such as a shortage of manpower. Inheritability in this industry is not easy, especially when the outlook for the livestock industry in Taiwan is generally pessimistic. Even with government subsidies and the willingness of operators to change, they still face various problems.”
“Despite the numerous challenges facing the livestock industry, Kevin Wu believes that crises can also be opportunities. In 2010, he firmly decided that his company must take a different path, moving towards branding and digitization, to create new value to counteract the gloomy prospects of the livestock industry.”
“Kevin Wu’s unconventional thinking at that time seemed ‘strange’ to his peers in the livestock industry. Looking back, his ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas demonstrated forward-thinking. Digital transformation is now a prevalent trend in various industries, and Kevin Wu’s team has long been taking careful and practical steps, becoming pioneers in the industry.”
“I often ask the team, and even myself, ‘Is this the only way?’ and ‘What else can be done?’ Our company started as an agent for animal nutrition products, mainly for domestic consumption. Still, it became the first to achieve EU standards for a nutrition product processing plant. We also plan to submit a sustainability report soon. Even though we are not a publicly traded company and currently mainly focus on domestic sales, I believe these efforts are worthwhile. It’s not just about fostering corporate culture but also adapting to future trends, allowing us to pave a longer path forward.”
“Kevin Wu said that since he took over, he has believed in one thing – whether it’s ‘digital transformation’ or ‘zero-carbon transformation,’ as long as he believes in something and puts in full effort to move forward in various ways, it can be achieved: ‘Because innovation and change are the only survival rules!”
Love for Food and Innovation Leading Nice Garden’s Transformation
Founded in 1984, Nice Garden Industrial has been in operation for precisely forty years, primarily focusing on the sale of animal nutrition products such as vitamins, organic minerals, and probiotics. Kevin Wu recalled that, starting from his academic pursuits, he experienced life in various places such as Canada, the United States, and Japan. He cultivated habits of observing different dietary cultures and related industries. After obtaining a dual bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Relations from The Johns Hopkins University in the United States and a master’s degree in International Business Management from Waseda University in Japan, he returned to Taiwan to take over the family business.
Upon taking the reins, Kevin Wu began advocating for supply chain integration, establishing meat cutting factories and breeding facilities. He also founded the collaborative craftsman brand “CHOHO” (Chinese: 究好豬).
“In fact, there was no specific grooming of a successor in the family, but I always had a passion for biology from a young age. I was also very interested in ‘eating,’ and coincidentally, I combined my interests with my profession, thinking about whether I could cultivate the livestock industry in a different way.” Kevin Wu, who loves exploring different culinary cultures worldwide, experiencing diverse eating habits and styles, and befriending chefs from various countries, integrated his interests into the management of the livestock industry. His team’s creativity ultimately led to the development of innovative ways of consuming pork, such as “Oyster Meat,” “Secerto,” and “Ribeye Strip,” providing consumers with a richer dining experience and catching the attention of various sectors.
In addition to innovating in management methods, Kevin Wu brought innovative thinking to Nice Garden Industrial, initiating internal digital transformation. “Compared to industrial products, biological products are more challenging to observe. For example, in pig farming, determining whether pigs are growing well can be subjective. Through digitized records, we can provide management with objective data.”
Especially under the threats of diseases such as swine fever or avian influenza, maintaining biosecurity measures has become more critical. To reduce contact between humans and animals, many farms have transitioned to enclosed spaces to prevent disease spread, making it challenging to observe the animals’ growth process.
“With the assistance of digital tools, we can collect data such as body size, sound, body temperature, or provide early notifications when risks arise.” Despite the evident benefits of digital tools in measurement, Kevin Wu emphasized the importance of extensive communication within the company. “When it comes to digitization, simpler approaches include implementing ERP systems in pig farms, which many operators have begun to do. The more complex ones may require a complete redesign of the entire field, along with training related personnel. I need to make everyone understand from the perspective of efficiency and performance improvement that without significant investment, it is challenging to achieve these new changes.”
Since the initial determination to undergo transformation, Kevin Wu has considered communication as one of the most crucial tasks. Starting with communication with his father, Chairman Kunmin Wu, who is a passionate livestock farmer, he gradually gained an understanding of why the transformation was imperative. Through communication with his father, he also realized the importance of conveying values. Subsequent communication with directors and internal partners went smoothly. “I consider myself relatively fortunate because most of the company’s shareholders have a background in the livestock industry, share consensus on the prospects of market contraction, and thus ultimately understand the necessity of transformation.”
“However, this may not be the case for other industries. Even with government subsidies, when they need to invest millions, they may not know how long it will take to recoup the investment. Most individual households are hesitant. Although digital transformation is evident now, many in the livestock industry are still observing.” As a director of the Taiwan Digital Enterprise Association, Kevin Wu emphasized that this is where the association can exert influence. By gathering collective efforts and facing various challenges in transformation together, everyone can join hands to unlock the obstacles.
The Sustainable Paradigm of Taiwanese Meat: “CHOHO”
“While I may not be considered a second-generation pig farmer, I still closely monitor the related industries within this sector,” said Kevin Wu, as he confidently shared the founding purpose of the “CHOHO” brand. He believed that he could integrate the pork-related supply chain and even expand into other meat products, transforming “CHOHO” into an overall concept of excellence, becoming Taiwan’s premium meat brand, and providing consumers with high-quality and diverse CHOHOs.
“With the trend of rising costs in various aspects, seeking profits at the expense of everything else is ultimately a dead end. I believe that Taiwan’s food industry must rely on brand strength and fight collectively to ensure long-term success,” said Kevin Wu. He chose to start with pork, even though it has the most complex production and distribution chain and is challenging to trace, because it is the meat that Taiwanese people consume the most.
“Given that the short-term trend in Taiwan is still primarily focused on domestic consumption of pork, maintaining competitiveness and ensuring sustainable development are vital issues,” explained Kevin Wu. Rather than simply cutting costs, he wanted to take a different approach. He believed that the competitiveness of individual pig farmers was limited, given the predominance of small-scale operations in the swine industry. However, by bringing together a group of pig farmers, they could collectively negotiate better terms for sourcing raw materials upstream and pricing negotiations downstream, thereby gaining a competitive edge.
Kevin Wu emphasized that especially after Taiwan experienced food safety crises like the importation of U.S. pork containing ractopamine, traceability of pork has become crucial for consumers. “CHOHO,” as a collaborative brand of artisans, not only provides a complete production and distribution history but also ensures quality control over pork. This includes a comprehensive grading mechanism and scientific farming practices, establishing standardized norms for pork. This guarantees that regardless of the source of the pork, as long as it carries the “CHOHO” label, consumers can enjoy a sense of security and satisfaction.
Kevin Wu: Transformation Is More Effective When Done Together
Kevin Wu is currently a director of the Taiwan Digital Enterprise Association. His most significant takeaway from participating in “Zero Carbon University” was the journey from “digital transformation” to “zero carbon transformation.” Through a series of courses, he learned to establish and implement a comprehensive value system, allowing his company to continually upgrade and iterate.
“Transformation is definitely more effective when done together as a group. Even after graduating from Zero Carbon University, participants and mentors continue to interact actively. Many mentors, specializing in various fields, have become key communication bridges within the company. The mentors in the Taiwan Digital Enterprise Association are individuals with extensive practical experience in specific industries and significant social influence. For the next generation of business leaders, they often play a crucial role in facilitating communication with senior management or shareholders.”
Bringing back the innovative thinking learned through the Taiwan Digital Enterprise Association’s collaborative learning, Kevin Wu continues to cultivate his company on the path of transformation. “With 40 years of experience, we can provide consulting services for pig farmers, which is relatively uncommon in the livestock industry. This includes addressing nutrition, management, and even digital transformation issues. In other words, we are no longer just product-oriented but also offer knowledge services.”
Simultaneously, the data collected through digital tools has laid a strong foundation for Nice Garden’s sustainable transformation. This also includes Kevin Wu’s hope that, through the brand influence of “CHOHO,” they can assist pig farmers in enhancing pork quality, contributing to the discussion of sustainable development.
Lastly, Kevin Wu touches upon the topic of fresh companion animal food. “Nowadays, companion animal ownership is becoming increasingly common, and we want to take care of companion animals as well. In addition to the commonly known pet food and canned food, we also plan to provide top-quality meat options for companion animals.”
Kevin Wu, who enjoys seeking novelty and change, is currently writing his own sustainability story at the forefront of the industry. In his view, the concept of sustainability also includes working together with consumers for mutual benefit.
“In the past, we primarily collaborated with restaurants. From now on, I hope to communicate more with consumers. For example, our products are not only available at Sainte Co. and Mia C’ Bon but also through e-commerce, especially during the pandemic. We aim to expand the ‘CHOHO Lifestyle Circle,’ providing more content and interaction related to agriculture and food to engage consumers.” In addition to this, under Kevin Wu’s leadership, Nice Garden Industrial even tried to partner with GQ to organize camping events.
“Isn’t it a bit surprising?” Kevin Wu chuckled. “And camping won’t be a one-time event. I welcome everyone to follow Nice Garden. Next time, we’ll have the opportunity to sit by the campfire, share stories, and enjoy pork together. I’ll show you that we are not just ‘selling pork.’ We hope to create a healthier and more tasteful lifestyle through ‘eating’ together with you. Of course, I’ll let you experience the delicious taste of Taiwan’s top-quality meat selection, ‘CHOHO,’ first!”