For over a century, Lee Kum Kee has been a staple sauce in Chinese kitchens under the leadership of its third-generation chairman, Lee Man Tat, who has established systems that ensure the product line continues and the family line prospers.
When times get tough, the fallback options that tend to hold their positions well are the staples. Everyone has to eat. Whether it be in a restaurant or at home, the need to satisfy the basic need of eating is one that transcends all economic situations.
But then, there’s food and there’s food. And, often, the difference is the sauce. As that magic ingredient that brings life to meat, vegetables and a host of edible options, a few drops of the potent stuff adds up over time. It certainly has for Lee Kum Kee (LKK), which was established in 1888 and has grown into a fourth-generation family-owned enterprise producing more than 200 sauces, distributed in over 100 countries, and coining the phrase “Where there are people there is Lee Kum Kee”.
Anyone tasting a dish made with Lee Kum Kee who comments it’s ‘out of this world’ wouldn’t be lying.
Lee Kum Kee has been appointed as the “Official Partner of China Space Industry” and followed the spacecraft Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 into space. In 2016, Lee Kum Kee Sriracha Mayo made it to the NASA Space Station.
Now, where there are no people there is also Lee Kum Kee.
In addition to condiments, the enterprise set up a Chinese herbal products business, Infinitus.
Much of the success for the business came about while under the stewardship of the founder’s grandson, Lee Man Tat, who, at 87, still serves as patriarch. He joined LKK in 1954 to help his father run the business, before taking over the reins in 1972. Adopting a philosophy of pragmatism, integrity, constant entrepreneurship and benevolence, he also instilled failsafe measures to ensure the family brand’s legacy would perpetuate.
What is the secret behind Lee Kum Kee Sauce’s success? Will the next generation struggle to find the right flavour for success? Or will the dynasty be challenged to grow?
Read the full interview and business strategy behind Lee Kum Kee’s secret sauce in STORM V26. Out in bookstores soon.