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Teasets(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 08,2007)

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UK-based Just Mugs Ltd is renowned for its fine bone china teaware such as this floral set comprising cup and saucer, teapot, 8-inch side plate, creamer and sugar bowl

Many people consider drinking a cup of tea to be the height of civility, so why not enjoy it in a highly elegant teaset that lends extra refinement to the enjoyment?

It's tea time, and ready to serve you is Gerber Far East 1959 Ltd, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Gerber Group, which designs, manufactures, packages, markets and distributes a wide range of porcelain and ceramic products, glassware, giftware and home textiles.

High-quality bone china accounts for about 20% of the firm's total production, with porcelain taking 60% and ceramics 20%. Apart from its own in-house design work, Gerber also engages a number of top designers from Italy, the US, the UK and Germany. It also holds licences for the Fiorucci, Tonino Lamborghini, Picasso and Vincent van Gogh brands.

"There has been more of a trend for famous name brands, and we work together with the designers for these brands," says director of marketing Frank Fu.

Of the nearly 2.5 million pieces the company manufactures overall each month, production of teasets is equally divided between branded and non-branded goods.

The ISO 9001- and ISO 14001-certified company produces its own decal designs, and prints and decorates teasets at its manufacturing facilities in Huizhou on the Chinese mainland. Non-branded 15-piece bone china teasets are priced from US$25-30 FOB Hong Kong for a minimum order of one TEU for delivery 45 days after order confirmation.

Although North America and Europe are its main export markets, the mainland is regarded as an up-and-coming market. "It represents 10% of our sales now," says Fu.

In terms of trends in teasets, colours such as pink, black and white and earth tones are currently fashionable. "There has also been increasing emphasis in the industry on combining materials such as glass and porcelain, stainless steel and porcelain, and wood and glass. We do only stainless steel and porcelain now, but we're looking at other alternatives," Fu says.

Delicate designs, many of which feature floral patterns, are behind the success of Art Home Design Inc's stylish porcelain and glassware teapots, dishware, vases and trays that come in European, American and Asian designs. "We like to say we create art within everyday life," says president Hideya Izawa.

The two-year-old company from Tajimi City, Japan, has a total of eight modern design collections, all in white porcelain, under names such as Chinois (Chinese style) and Splendid (European style).

Teapots priced at US$0.80-3.00 each FOB Shantou account for 20% of sales. "We offer more than 50 teapot designs," Izawa says, adding that a teapot set with two cups and saucers sells for US$5.60-6.70.

The OEM/ODM firm subcontracts production on the mainland, turning out about 10,000 pieces per month at three factories in Shantou. "We sell our designs and we also manufacture finished items," Izawa says, adding that the minimum order is 2,000 pieces per item for delivery 60 days after order confirmation to markets in Japan, Australia, Canada and Turkey.

"Our European-style designs sell best because they look dressier," he adds. "Next year, we plan to add three more collections."

UK-based Just Mugs Ltd is a global supplier of porcelain and stoneware mugs, and launched its medium- to high-end traditional English teaware products under the Rose of England brand about a year ago.

The brand is renowned for being the thinnest bone china in the world. "We have moved our teaware, stoneware and porcelain manufacturing from England to China because of the cost base, which is 50% less," says managing director Philip Tittensor.

The 13-year-old firm has subcontracting arrangements with three factories on the mainland. "We do all the designs, and the QC is also done by us," he says, noting that only fine bone china mugs remain produced in the UK.

Featuring mostly floral patterns, the teaware is available in cup-and-saucer sets (starting at US$3.50 FOB Tianjin); teapots (from US$10); side plate, cup and saucer sets (from US$6) and creamer-and-sugar sets (starting at US$5). Gift packages may also be ordered.

The firm has a minimum order requirement of 1,200 pieces per colour/style, and delivers 8-10 weeks after order confirmation. Markets include Europe, South Africa, Australia and the US.

Meanwhile, 1989-established Dragon Seeds Overseas Development Co Ltd of Hong Kong is a firm known for its award-winning Asian-style teaset designs in ceramic stoneware and porcelain, along with its stylish gift boxes.

Some sets include a tea-leaf container, incense burner, tea warmer and a bamboo serving tray. Basic sets comprising a teapot and four cups sell at prices ranging from US$3.50-8.00 per set FOB Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland.

Half of the firm's production consists of its OEM/ODM business, and the remainder is under the company's Chinese Zen-inspired Alice Wong brand. "Our Alice Wong designs are very Oriental looking, and very calm and tranquil," explains manager Alice Wong. "We try to mix modern, trendy styles with an antique look to achieve fusion, and some of our designs are hand-painted and some have decals."

Minimum order is one TEU, with exports going mainly to the UK, France, Germany and the US. Delivery is 45-60 days after order confirmation.

High-quality porcelain wares and items for restaurants and hotels is a specialty of Volume Tableware Ltd. This company also sells retail porcelain items, while its super-vitrified plates, cups, saucers, trays, bowls, teapots and coffee pots are microwaveable, as well as dishwasher- and freezer- safe.

Available in white, cream and other solid colours, the seven-year-old firm offers nine different lines. "Most are porcelain ware, but some are bone china," says porcelain supervisor Wendy Lin. "Most of our customers buy dishes, plates, cups and saucers, and white ware is our best-selling line. The more modern designs sell better, although we also have traditional ones."

Each item is priced individually, even if an entire set is ordered (teapot and four cups and saucers). For example, teapots range in price from US$0.47-1.44 per piece FOB Shenzhen for minimum orders of one TEU to be delivered 45 days after order confirmation.

The OEM/ODM firm's 500-worker, 20,000-square-metre factory in Shenzhen produces two million pieces per month that are mostly exported to Europe. Owned and operated by expatriate Australians, the company handles OBM manufacturing for many well-known global companies and can stamp items with customers' particular logo needs.

An innovative three-in-one stackable teapot, cup and saucer set is just one of the interesting teasets in porcelain or ceramic from Xingye Trading Co. "The teaset for one is a new concept and it's very popular," says export manager Ann Lee. "It sells for less than US$3 FOB Shenzhen per set, and 10% less for ceramic, and we have a smaller size available for children."

Alternatively, a St Valentine's Day teaset with teapot, six cups and saucers is a study in red and white, with decals of hearts applied to every piece, precisely because the 1993-founded company likes to show a sense of design humour and colour.

"We like colourful teapots. Our US customers also like strong colours, and they tend to want seasonal designs for Christmas, Halloween and St Valentine's Day," says Lee, adding that Europeans usually want softer colours.

Many designs are contemporary or abstract, featuring geometric forms such as dots and circles or flowers. "The price for a typical 15-piece teaset is less than US$10 FOB Shenzhen," says Lee, adding that Europe is the company's main market, although there are plans to further penetrate the US. The minimum order is 5,000 pieces for delivery 45 days after order confirmation.

Besides teapots, the OEM/ODM firm also manufactures mugs, plates, gift plates and mug sets and can turn out one million pieces per month from its factory in Shenzhen. "About 70% of our business is manufacturing and 30% is trading," Lee informs.

Having originated in China some 5,000 years ago, the custom of drinking tea is now a worldwide practice, and attractively designed teasets are playing a key role in stimulating demand.



Art Home Design Inc
10-6-44 Asahigaoka Tajimi City
Gifu 507-0071, Japan
Tel: 81-572-27-9395
Fax: 81-572-27-9346
Web: www.arthome.jp

Dragon Seeds Overseas Development Co Ltd
Rm 940, Sino Ind Plaza
9 Kai Cheung Rd, Kowloon Bay
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2384-4443
Fax: 852-2770-1380
Web: www.dragon-seeds.com

Gerber Far East 1959 Ltd
Unit 710, CCT Telecom Bldg
11 Wo Shing St, Fo Tan, New Territories
Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2785-8881
Fax: 852-2786-4960
Web: www.ggghk.com

Just Mugs Ltd
Unit 5, Hanley Business Park
Cooper Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent
Tel: 44-01-782-274-888
Fax: 44-01-782-202-181
Web: www.justmugs.com

Volume Tableware Ltd
4/F, Blk 2 (C, D), Huajian Bldg
Xinghua Rd, Shekou Ind Park
Shenzhen 518067, China
Tel: 86-755-2667-2201
Fax: 86-755-2669-1232
Web: www.volumetableware.com

Xingye Trading Co
5/F, Blk 3, Meijing Ind Park
Qiaoxiang Rd, Shenzhen, China
Tel: 86-755-2675-5111
Fax: 86-755-2675-5000