Genki Forest is a Chinese health tech beverage startup that is growing faster than Alibaba

Business & Technology

A new beverage company — valued at $6 billion after its latest fundraising round — has combined technology with health-conscious marketing to take the consumer goods industry by storm.

Photo by Chang Che.

Genki Forest, founded in 2015, is now valued at $6 billion after its latest round of fundraising, tripling last year’s valuation according to a tech news outlet (in Chinese).

Genki Forest Food Technology Group is the official name of the startup, which offers healthy, hip alternatives to the fizzy, sugar-infused soft drinks dominant in the beverage market.

  • Its flagship “sugar-free, carb-free, and fat-free” peach-flavored soda water is distinctive for its slick black-white-and-pink label with an “air” (気) logo, written in a Japanese version of the character.
  • Other products include milk tea, energy drinks, yogurt, and others.
  • Genki Forest products are now ubiquitous in vending machines and convenience stores across Chinese cities, and are also exported to more than 40 countries, including the United States, Australia, and Japan.
  • As a self-described tech company (in Chinese), it sees its R&D and manufacturing innovations as the main value to customers. Genki began establishing R&D centers in 2015, before entering the market in 2017.

Investors include high-profile names such as Sequoia Capital China and Warburg Pincus.

  • Sequoia Capital China, known for picking winners of China’s technology industry, invested early in internet companies such as Meituan Dianping, Pinduoduo, and ByteDance.
  • Warburg Pincus, a private equity fund with over $60 billion under management, has invested in companies like Alibaba’s Ant Financial, NIO, and ZTO Express.

The CEO and founder is the successful game developer and entrepreneur Táng Bīnsēn 唐彬森. At the age of 22, he won a gold medal in a programming competition in France.

  • He was formerly the CEO of Beijing ELEX Technology, a top gaming company, known for developing “Clash of Kings,” a top grossing app in China around the world with 100 million downloads in 16 months.
  • In the late 2010s, as the gaming industry was squeezed by larger tech players such as Tencent and NetEase, Tang decided to make a pivot to consumer goods. Tang stepped down from ELEX Technology in 2020 (in Chinese).
  • This is Tang’s first foray into consumer goods.

China has one of the largest retail beverage markets in the world — totaling $192 billion in 2019. In a highly competitive industry, Genki Forest has separated itself from the aging competition with a young, healthy brand combined with a techie twist.