Eco-Friendly M’sian Startup Selling Fresh Yoghurt
When Wilson and his then-girlfriend had bowel problems in 2013, they turned to yogurt for help.
They tried several yogurt products together, but couldn’t find one that was compatible with improving their gut health.
At the time, Wilson was also a student of food science and technology, so he decided to research why their problem couldn’t be solved with yogurt.
He found that the health benefits of yogurt actually depend on the survivability of the probiotic culture in the yogurt.
When Wilson was doing his Masters in 2018 in the same field, he realized that more people around him were facing a similar problem.
YourgutBB was his answer to this common problem, and it was launched in late March 2020 with his brother TC as a co-founder.
Green business model
One of the main goals of their business is to focus on minimizing their carbon footprint as much as possible.
They produce their yogurt on demand instead of estimating their demand to avoid wastage, so you can expect to wait 2-3 days for pickup or delivery.
For this reason, they don’t have any retail store that sells or distributes their products.
Instead, they have what they call a production studio, where they carry the yogurt entrees. This culture is used to produce yogurt on site.
Since water makes up 75% of a yogurt product, they believed that a one-time transport from yogurt entrees to production studios could significantly reduce their transport costs.
And since they produce on demand, they don’t have to refrigerate their yogurt because customers can get it immediately once it’s made.
Once their yogurt is produced, it is packaged in PP plastic bottles, which are like Tupperware bottles.
These bottles can be kept or returned to their production studios for cashback or RM2 discount.
Innovate from commercial yogurt starters
At first, yogurt starters came from commercial products, but their problem was that they took a long enough time to ferment it.
So to get there, they started mixing the culture from different sources to create their own yogurt entrees.
In a year and a half, they were able to achieve the starter they have today and reduce the fermentation time to 20%.
Once the culture has matured, they transport them to their production studios.
From there they will give the culture about 3 to 5 days to adjust to its new environment and reproduce.
When this is done, fermentation can begin and be done within a few hours.
The shelf life of their yogurt is similar to that of commercial yogurt, so consumers can store their yogurt in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Each bottle is filled with 725 ml of yogurt, which is recommended to be consumed within a week.
Their prices and flavors are:
Besides nature, they have flavors of pineapple, strawberry, mango and cranberry for their yogurt.
These flavors depend on the location of the branches as they buy them locally.
6 branches in less than a year
Today, YourgutBB has up to 6 branches across the country.
They are in Seri Kembangan (where they started), Kuching (which TC manages), Kuantan, Klang and Johor Bahru.
The 3 branches, Kuantan, Klang and Johor Bahru were launched recently and have only been operating for a month.
On average, each of their production studios broke even in about 3 to 4 months.
Last month they sold between 400 and 500 bottles in Seri Kembangan, 700 in Kuching and less than 200 each in the other 3 branches.
30-40% of their sales will go to raw materials, an additional 30% will go to their agents and distributors, while the rest will be used for operational costs such as salaries, hiring, education and marketing content.
But Wilson and TC do not rely on this activity to be their main source of income.
For them, this business is not about earning financially but about the impact they create through their business.
“A good example of this is when one of our agents explained that some customers use our bottles to dapao their boba instead of opting for single-use plastics. Isn’t that a big part of the payoff for our business? Wilson shared.
The obstacles of an unconventional business model
Because they do not have a central production point, their yogurt production depends on the water supplied to their production studios.
This means that their Selangor branches have also been affected by the recent water cuts, which has caused a hiccup in their yogurt production.
Nor is an unusual business model like theirs one that consumers can easily adapt to.
They have had reservations from many customers about bottling their products this way because it bothers them.
Moreover, their target customers, namely the B40 and M40, are difficult to attract because they see yogurt as something that there is no need to spend money on.
COVID-19 has also slowed the launch of new production studios.
However, they see it as an opportunity for their team to strengthen their online presence since they rely solely on organic marketing.
Giving back to the community
Additionally, with the pandemic hitting individuals and businesses hard, Wilson and TC have hired those who have lost their jobs as agents.
“One of our very first agents lost his job as a bus driver and his whole family relied on him as breadwinner. We recruited, trained and proposed him as a distributor.
In addition to hiring locals, they also strive to work closely with NGOs to give back to the local community where their business is located.
They carried out advocacy work with the Sarawak Society for the Deaf (SSD) and Worming Up in Kuching to create alternatives to plastic bags and find ways to extend shelf life to avoid food waste.
“We hope that with the way we run this business, we can earn a better future for our beloved sons and daughters,” Wilson said.
- You can read more about YourgutBB here.
Featured Image Credit: Wilson Ang and TC Ang, Founders of YourgutBB
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