Local Heroes: BlackBall Taiwanese Dessert brings pioneering new bubble tea and alcohol concept BAL to travel retail

Welcome to Local Heroes, our column dedicated to emerging local and national brands across all categories and geographies.

Today’s spotlight falls on bubble milk tea producer BlackBall Taiwanese Dessert, which is gearing up for concerted expansion in travel retail following a debut at Vancouver International Airport and a highly successful showing at May’s TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition in Singapore for its newly created and pioneering brand BAL.

BAL. Remember the name. The Taiwanese brand is ready to burst onto the travel scene. Literally.

The Blackball-owned brand produces a variety of bursting boba and fruit and tea dry toppings, including a series of uniquely Taiwanese products. These are made using molecular gastronomy techniques to present a wide range of fruit and food flavors in innovative ways.

This year BAL broke new ground globally by becoming the first brand to inject classic spirits (including vodka, rum, tequila, gin and whisky); cocktails – from Martinis to Daiquiris, Margaritas to Mojitos – and can even mix Champagne with different flavour bursting bobas.

The technique allows the nectar to burst with flavours into the consumer’s mouth, bolstered by a vibrant array of colours. The company believes the concept has huge potential in travel retail, tapping into younger adult drinkers’ tastes and trends.

Bubbly with a difference: BlackBall Taiwan Dessert Operations & Rebranding Director Watson Chen mixes up a tantalising blend of Champagne and BAL

BlackBall is a leader in high-quality desserts and bubble milk tea in Taiwan. It has evolved from a street-side store 20 years ago to a modern central factory that supplies high-quality products to more than 13,000 supermarkets and retail stores throughout Taiwan.

That local success has created the platform for rapid international expansion, including travel retail. Today the company has more than 100 stores worldwide in countries including Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, with a mission “to spread the delicious taste of Taiwan around the world”.

BAL literally burst onto the scene at the recent Singapore show

“Our product application scenarios are very comprehensive,” the company says. “They can be put into beverages, juices, yoghurt, beer, Champagne or spirits. The combination turns into an extremely wonderful drink in terms of taste, colour and fun. We also have alcohol-free Popping Boba with different fruit flavours to offer customers more choice.”

As reported, BlackBall made its airside F&B debut in late 2022 with Plaza Premium Lounge at Vancouver International Airport through the new Root98 dining concept, which offers a wide selection of milk and fruit bubble teas from BlackBall.

Leveraging that promising entry, BlackBall and BAL have begun intensive travel retail marketing, starting with Canada and the US, followed by rapid development in Asia Pacific including Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea. Expansion to Europe including Italy and France will come next.

Speaking to The Moodie Davitt Report during the Singapore show, BlackBall Taiwan Dessert Operations & Rebranding Director Watson Chen said: “Everyone in Taiwan knows bubble tea, it’s really famous.

“Today, cocktails such as Aperol Spritz are very popular around the world, particularly in countries such as Italy and France. So, many alcohol brands want to make the base for a cocktail.

Watson Chen shows a BAL multi-pack to The Moodie Davitt Report President Dermot Davitt (left) and Chairman Martin Moodie (right)

“We can help the brands create a new solution. We can put the alcohol inside our bubble,” he added, noting that non-alcohol spirits options will also be available.

Just as chocolate companies such as Anton Berg work with spirits brands for liqueur- and spirits-infused chocolates, BlackBall plans to partner leading drinks companies to create a range of new alcohol (and low & non-alcohol) option. Besides travel retail, distribution channels will include supermarkets and restaurants.

Multipacks featuring different fruit flavours and spirits bases will be made available in duty free at a range of accessible price points. BAL can also tailor specific travel retailer-exclusives, Chen added.

“Everything is from Taiwan,” he commented. “So we want to promote the culture and provide fancy and attractive solutions, not just sell the product.”

Commenting on the initiative, The Moodie Davitt Report Chief China Representative Zhang Yimei (former Deputy General Manager at Hainan Tourism Investment Duty Free Co in Sanya) said: “The concept is very strong because, firstly, BlackBall wants to showcase the Taiwan culture outside the island.

“Secondly, while young people still like to drink nowadays, they don’t want to drink too much. So that’s why they love the cocktail kind of drink and also food together with the liquor, which bubble tea offers.

“Bubble tea was already very famous and is becoming very popular in many more markets. So BlackBall and BAL have made this combination with spirits, which shows a lot of creativity. The concept and even the machine that makes the products were innovated by the owner and by the team.

“So it’s something fresh and new to the market and also a very good solution for the liquor business in reaching new consumers, for example women and those who only drink lightly.

“The product has a very nice image – and looks really good in photos. So it’s something different and fashionable to attract women and the younger generation just as, say, Jack Daniel’s has done with Coca-Cola and Kweichow Moutai with ice cream.”  Look out for more on BAL in coming months via The Moodie Davitt Report. ✈


Email: watson.chen@bobabal.com

WeChat: Watson_Chen1228

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