F&B TRAILBLAZERS PODCAST EPISODE 36
Hitting the sweet spot: How sugar-replacement start-up will maintain brand focus after conglomerate merger
ASEAN-based sugar replacement firm Swiftlet recently successfully completed a major merger and acquisition (M&A) with Senix, and is strategically positioned to be one of the company’s leading healthier foods businesses.
This has been a major change for Swiftlet, but from the viewpoint of the firm’s original Co-Founder and now-R&D Lead of Senix Le Anh Minh, it is key to keep brand focus as a core priority in order to ensure to achieve growth even under the wings of a larger company.
“Having completed the M&A, from a strategic standpoint, we still want to fit all of our developments under the Swiftlet brand, but we are also keeping things open as we don’t want to lose the focus of the brand – I would not want to have products completely unrelated to the brand using its name,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“At the same time, the focus is also clear that continuous growth, particularly in terms of our portfolio, is going to be a big priority, and the second goal will be to increase market coverage both in markets we are already in and to enter more new markets both in the APAC region and beyond.”
Comparing leading a start-up to leading a brand that is now under the helm of a big company, Le described the biggest difference between the two as requiring a lot more people management for the latter.
“Moving from research to entrepreneurship meant learning a lot about teamwork, and then upgrading from that to corporate life basically meant a added question of responsibility and people management,” he said.
“At this stage, you’re not just solving an issue per se when it crops up, but you have to solve the issue in a way that satisfies everyone, every stakeholder involved.
“Learning cross-departmental communications is also crucial at this stage, as well as having to constantly demonstrate leadership [instead of just ‘being’ the leader at the start-up stage] - that can be something of a challenge.”
Moving forward, in addition to improving on its existing sugar alternative product which has brought on all of its current success, the firm is looking at branching into more areas such as healthier snacks so as to reach an even broader base of consumers.
“Swiftlet came from the fact that there are a lot of sugar replacement alternatives on the market, but so far most of these are lacking in some way [whether it is] in terms of taste or being simply inconvenient to use as a replacement – it is a blend of the various sweeteners to alleviate all of these various issues,” he said.
“This has been improved to the point that it is no longer a platform restricted product – by this I mean that it can be used in various types of foods and beverages – and only the consumers’ imagination is the limit.
“Moving forward though, our R&D team has been extremely aggressive in the area of healthy, fortified snacks [as] we see working with diabetes and obesity via the sugar replacement as just the start – there are so many other areas of the diet to be looked into in order to infuse healthy ingredients and improve people’s health.
“The idea is to use exotic, healthy ingredients in South East Asia and deliver these to consumers via innovative modes of delivery.”
Listen to the podcast above to find out more.