The Kettle Gourmet specialises in popcorn and has made a name for itself with its unusual flavours based on local dishes such as Nasi Lemak (coconut milk rice) and Chilli Crab.
According to Chua, the firm’s flavour innovation is very much based on the use of artificial flavourings, allowing for the creation of realistic flavours very similar to the actual dishes.
“Artificial flavours very controversial as technology has reached a point where these can taste even more like the real thing than the actual food – and we have used this to our advantage using popcorn as a base,” Chua told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“I believe there are more pros than cons to using artificial flavouring, for example portability, i.e. one cannot bring chilli crab overseas as is, but it is possible to do so via popcorn as a medium, so Singaporean flavours can be brought to the world; and flavour discovery where we’re allowing people to try flavours they never had access to before or simply did not know existed.”
Chua started The Kettle Gourmet right out of school with no prior experience, describing the firm as an ‘accidental startup’.
“I mean, no one would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller [and] I never had any F&B background or the connections to fall back on to ask questions or seek advice at the time,” he said.
“So at the beginning it was all just a lot of common sense – We had no POS system so we used Microsoft Excel, we had no database so we started one from Google Sheets. One thing I learned though, was that you actually just need to open your mouth and ask – people are usually more than willing to help and feel wanted when you ask them for advice, so just ask.”
Chua also stressedthe importance of networking and how ‘It’s not what but who you know’.
“Having a food product business is an advantage in this sense, as everyone can see, feel, taste and touch the product – when I first started out and went to a lot of events, I’d bring a lot of popcorn and then quickly become very popular in the room, with lots of people giving me namecards or linking me with useful contacts, so it’s much better to build a network in this line versus in service,” he said.
The plan for Chua is to actually sell the firm in three to five years– but not before he completes his dream of building a conglomerate of sorts and adding two more brands under his cap, which in this case is The Kettle Gourmet’s parent company The Savoury Nosh.
“The playbook is more or less there, it’s done, and we can just repeat this with different snack types [like chips or potato sticks and so on],” he said.
“The important part, the secret to FMCG success, is not so much the recipe of the product, but more of the channels you get your products out there by. So if right now I have my current products in some 200 channels, I can always launch new products into these same 200 channels.
Listen to the podcast above to find out more.