Brahim’s is one of the largest halal RTE food companies in the region with over 50 SKUs in its portfolio covering everything from rice to curries to sauces and many more, and has been in operation for over 30 years since 1986. The Brahim’s brand falls under the umbrella of Dewina Holdings.
“In the ready-to-eat business, it is especially important to be ahead in your technology as it is an area with a lot of competition,” Dewina CEO Dato’ Seri Ibrahim bin Haji Ahmad said at the recent Reimagine: Halal in Asia virtual conference.
“You will need to stay ahead whether it comes to product taste, sensation, promotion, packaging technology and so on as the competition is really fierce especially now with COVID-19 and everything going online.
“At Brahim’s I was lucky to start the company as the first in South-East Asia to adopt the retort pouch sterilisation and packaging technique using technology from Japan. This gave us pioneer status and we were even the first to supply halal MREs for the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, for Muslim members of the forces.
“So in terms of the packaging the retort pack allowed for many benefits such as longer shelf-life without preservatives or refrigeration, being easy to carry, compact, convenient and rust-proof as opposed to having these ready-to-eat items in bottles or tin cans, for example, and this has been a standout for consumers
That said, he added that good packaging alone is not sufficient, and that constant product innovation is crucial to keep consumers coming back.
“You need to keep innovating new products, new uses for your products, especially if the process used to make these products is already simple and straightforward,” said Dato’ Seri Ibrahim.
“Initially we were very focused on just ready-to-eat meals, but soon consumers came and told us that this was ‘too simple’ and they wanted options that allowed them to be more creative in the kitchen, so we innovated to create cooking sauces in pouches instead, as well as things like pastes and simmer sauces. The RTE sauces took off even faster than the RTE meals.
“We made things like kurma and curry and rendang which we aimed to serve as convenient ‘meal helpers’ for consumers who don’t have the time or skill to make these from scratch – because we’ve already added everything in there from salt to coconut cream to everything except meat, it cuts the preparation time to just some 10% to 15% of the original time needed.”
Brahim’s is well-known to be exceptionally popular amongst travellers or those living in foreign countries who want a convenient, affordable taste of home. This is especially key amongst Muslim consumers who tend to face challenges finding halal food when travelling in non-Muslim majority countries.
“I would say that halal and localised products are a big trend for us currently, but even more outstanding has been a demand for new and exciting flavours along these lines,” said Dato’ Seri Ibrahim.
“Consumers who are overseas would turn to our local-flavoured RTE products, but on the other hand the younger generation who previously studied overseas and are familiar with us, now want flavours they are used to from overseas from a brand they are used to as well, so we’re being asked to make European flavours too.
“They are also more selective now, demanding more transparency, better biodegradable packaging, and so on.”
Brahim’s started OEM producing halal-certified RTE Malaysian Chicken Curry, Chicken Masak Lemak and Beef Rendang to be sold at MUJI retail outlets in Japan earlier this year, retailing at JPY490 (US$4.70) per pack.