After an initial assault on the European market that was blighted by supply issues and lack of uptake, things have been very quiet at Chinese bait producer Old Ghost for the last two years. However, a silent storm has been building at this forward-thinking company, and it is almost upon us.
There is something quite fascinating about the president of Chinese bait firm Old Ghost. His unusual, relaxed dress sense, endearing confidence and charisma and the way he can sell an idea make Mr Yi Zhe one of the most interesting characters in our industry. It’s all of these characteristics and the sheer bold ambition of the man that led to many being disappointed that his first attempt at breaking the European market didn’t quite go to plan.
The company has high standing in China, indeed it’s the largest company of its kind, and it had ambitions to reach the same high echelons in Euorpe. A huge advertising campaign, heavy presence at EFTTEX shows for several years and the establishment of its own UK workforce (signing up big-name anglers such as Will Raison) all looked to be leading towards a successful penetration of Europe. But it was not to be. The company suffered some well-documented problems with import into European nations and had supply issues meeting the demand it created. Ultimately, it did not quiet realise its potential and was forced to retreat.
That retreat has lasted two long years and, to the untrained eye, it would appear that Old Ghost had given up. But that is not the style of Yi Zhe.
“For those two years we have not just been sitting and doing nothing,” scoffs a typically enigmatic Yi as he speaks to TTW at China Fish 2017 in Beijing.
“Soon the people of Europe will be able to buy Old Ghost again.”
After his initial disappointment, Yi went back to the drawing board and hatched a plan to crack Europe. And it all started with some blueprints.
“For the last two years we have been building a brand-new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in China,” he details.
“We have invested around US $65 million – this is no drop in the ocean. The facility is around 150,000 square metres. It is huge. It should allow us to increase our potential capacity by around 10 times.”
This is a key point. Inability to fulfil the demand it created was a serious problem for Old Ghost last time out. It was unable to supply Europe while maintaining its high-volume orders in its domestic market. This is now a problem of the distant past.
“We believe this will be the biggest bait-producing facility of its kind, especially in China,” says Yi. “We have ensured that it is fitted with machinery of the highest quality. It has all come from Europe, from a Switzerland-based company. It was such a big project that its CEO came to visit us in China to witness the initial installation, and he is just as proud of the work as we are.”
With a love of fishing at the heart of everything Old Ghost does, the facility will have special lakes on site that allow proper testing of the products and also a general immersion for all staff in the world of angling.
Yi continues: “One of the facility’s main aims will be to allow us to focus on increasing our product range and introduce some new and innovative products – the kind of products that put Old Ghost on the map in the first place.
“We want the anglers of Europe to know that Old Ghost is back, and we mean business.”
To that end, the company will be returning to the show floor of EFTTEX for 2017 when the show takes place in Budapest, Hungary, at the end of June. It’s the first time the company has been at the show for two years. With the new facility set to officially open on May 26th, the timing couldn’t be better.
As well as outlining his clear intentions to TTW in our candid interview, Yi took to the stage at the annual China Fish Best New Product Awards banquet to outline his plans to the gathered industry.
He talked of knowing how and when to strike when you are stronger or smaller than your competitors and discussed ‘going onto the attack’ in great detail. It’s clear that Old Ghost’s ambitions have not been knocked by its previous challenges and setbacks. If anything, the time spent away from the market it most covets, Europe, has made Old Ghost wiser and more determined than ever to succeed. It has always had the firepower in terms of financial backing, but now it appears to have the guile, experience and wisdom required to make more of a successful run at the market.
All TTW can say, is watch the Old Ghost-shaped space with interest over the next 12 months, it will certainly not be dull.