The man behind a plethora of enterprises in Hong Kong’s nutrition industry, Locofama Group founder Larry Tang takes us down a deeply personal journey which began when his father was diagnosed with cancer.
Locofama Group founder Larry Tang first set out on his mission to reshape the face of healthy living in Hong Kong in 2013 with the launch of Locofama, his multi-faceted health-conscious enterprise. Now, with two restaurants, a cafe, health food store, pharmacy and whole host of community projects under his belt, his all-round approach is going strong. “We’re not trying to build an empire here. It’s more about building an ecosystem which can accumulate into a more sustainable system,” he explains of his ethos. Whether he’s feeding the city with delicious, healthy fare, modifying his customers nutritional intake via his stores and advice or encouraging people to come together – think animal adoption days every Sunday – all the endeavours of his group are centred around fostering a culture of well-being. He sat down with Hive Life to tell us why the big picture drives him.
The Locofama brand began on a small street in Sai Ying Pun with the launch of a mini-supermarket and cafe in late 2013, funded with Larry’s own savings. Right from the start, he sought to create a community that was founded not on competition, but cooperation. Opening across the street from organic vegetarian restaurant Grassroots Pantry, he explains, “I thought, if we had a shop, we might help each other out and bring more traffic to the street.”
That cafe spiralled into what is now Locofama, a restaurant offering organic Western cuisine. A year later, he opened his second restaurant Sohofama in Soho’s cultural and art centre PMQ. Collaborating with lifestyle brand G.O.D., he shifted his focus to healthy yet moreish Chinese bites, drawing a whole new crowd. Larry cites his dad as the impetus behind this. “He was the main reason I wanted to have more healthy options. After we opened Locofama, we realised, he doesn’t like salads, he doesn’t like cold food. So we wanted to do more classic Hong Kong dishes at Sohofama.”
Embarking upon a quest to learn all he can about nutrition, Larry has consulted a whole cast of Western doctors, nutritionists and Chinese doctors for his two restaurants, taking a holistic approach to enhance wellness from all angles. Along the way, he realised Chinese medicinal knowledge opened up a whole new chapter of understanding. “Western medicine looks at nutritional stuff – you’re talking calories, micronutrients, macronutrients, proteins and all that, but it doesn’t really talk about personal lives nor dietary requirements. The Chinese philosophy has always been that everyone should eat different things at different times.”
His next project is an integrated wellness centre in Sheung Wan which he hopes to open in March next year. “On the lower ground, there’ll be 10,000 square feet of space for a supermarket and food court. Upstairs, a health coach or a doctor might tell you that you should go downstairs and you should eat this stuff and that stuff,” he explains. Larry is now developing a range of virtual brands, experimenting with specialisation to more effectively target the food court and delivery markets. He is also pushing his company forward to be as progressive as it can be in terms of operations as well as message, with Locofama becoming one of the first retail companies in the world to accept cryptocurrency payments.
Having already made a marked impression on Hong Kong’s healthy living culture, Larry is still constantly reevaluating his aspirations to make more of an impact, incorporating an incubation arm for startups in his enterprise. “I remember going down to Occupy Central in 2014 and thinking, what are we trying to do here? If I’m in the right place at the right time, doing something meaningful, if my impact is big enough, then I look at how big the market is. Every dollar you spend, treat it as a vote.” It all speaks to an overarching strategy in which money is not the only objective. As Larry laughs, “These businesses are the worst businesses to invest in from an ROI perspective!” Rather, sustainability and community are the buzzwords of the future and he is giving all he can to make that vision a reality.