Kettle Gourmet Founder On Building A Popcorn Empire

Three years ago, Zac Chua, Founder and CEO of The Kettle Gourmet, shared with Vulcan Post his entrepreneurial journey and his ideas on running a popcorn business.

The “Popcorn Guy” has since expanded his business from a start-up to a growing popcorn empire.

“Since 2018, The Kettle Gourmet has grown by leaps and bounds. I’m proud to say that we’ve grown a lot since 2018, and my team and I have worked hard to achieve 200% year-over-year revenue growth since our inception, ”Zac told Vulcan Post.

Kettle Gourmet’s selection of classic and local flavors / Image credit: The Kettle Gourmet

Drawing on local palettes, he released flavors of Nasi Lemak, Kaya Butter Toast, Chicken Floss, and Chili Crab, as well as classic flavors like salted caramel and chocolate.

Previously, the company operated from a central kitchen in Tai Seng, but has since expanded to a full-fledged factory located in Subang, Malaysia.

Kettle Gourmet popcorn is also available at all 28 Fairprice Finest outlets, online on its own website, as well as at retailers such as Shopee, RedMart, GrabFood and foodpanda. Most recently, he joined AirAsia’s delivery service as the first supplier.

The Kettle Gourmet also offers customizable popcorn gift boxes, each adorned with bright colors and their easily recognizable snack monster mascots.

The Kettle Gourmet Popcorn Gift Box
Kettle Gourmet Popcorn Gift Box / Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet

It has also expanded its business offering and now offers a subscription model so that loyal customers can have a constant supply of popcorn.

COVID-19 didn’t put him in a corner

gourmet live kettle
A livestream from The Kettle Gourmet / Image credit: The Kettle Gourmet – Facebook

At the start of last year’s Breaker, The Kettle Gourmet had to shift from serving primarily business and office pantry storage to focusing on consumers working from home.

They’ve gotten into the habit of increasing their social media presence to market themselves as the work-from-home snack.

“As a young team with an average age of 22, we love to create fun and interesting posts – we’re all social media enthusiasts here at The Kettle Gourmet,” Zac said.

The team also took advantage of the downtime during the breaker to undergo a full rebranding exercise, and they’ve since created a whole new look for the brand, which features “snack monsters” as mascots.

The renowned packages of The Kettle Gourmet / Image credit: The Kettle Gourmet – Facebook

According to Zac, the new branding was a big hit with The Kettle Gourmet customers. Its focus on social media outreach and rebranding has paid off, and The Kettle Gourmet’s revenue has increased 247% in the midst of the pandemic.

Listen to your customers

Zac strongly believes that listening to your customers can make or break your business. According to a Salesforce report, 66% of customers expect businesses to understand their unique needs and expectations.

“At The Kettle Gourmet, we are constantly evolving to increase our offerings for our customers and partners. From leveraging our digital-centric approach through social media, through our online retailer partners, to the recent launch of our new online subscription service on our website to allow customers to order. more easily their favorite snacks. “

Listening carefully to customer feedback and sales data has allowed Zac to plan new flavor launches as well as phase out older ones, keeping his collection fresh and in demand.

The brand’s most popular flavor at the moment is Nasi Lemak. They sell a few hundred bags of Nasi Lemak popcorn every day, even after the breaker ends.

nasi lemak gourmet kettle popcorn
The Kettle Gourmet’s Nasi Lemak popcorn / Image credit: The Kettle Gourmet – Facebook

Zac constantly seeks to keep its customers on their toes, whether through new flavors or collaborations with other brands.

“Customer retention and value is important to us and one of the ways we aim to increase is to always pursue exciting partnerships,” Zac said, adding that the team is currently working on a new licensing project with Pokemon.

“People” are at the heart of its business strategy

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to take and listen to feedback carefully, because it’s all really about the customer,” Zac said.

He brings his employees together every Friday for team building sessions, as well as to see if they have any ideas on how to improve the business.

He credits this feedback loop and his constant investments in listening to his employees as the reasons The Kettle Gourmet has grown so rapidly over the past three years.

Zac goes on to explain that it all depends on the people in his eyes – if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, who will then take care of the business.

“You just have to be right once, and the rest is history, so ‘slam’! One of my business strategies, which I still implement today, is a multi-pronged approach – putting in multiple efforts everywhere and seeing which ones work well for us, with my employees and of course, our customers.

A strong supporter of networking, Zac is grateful to be part of and receive support from entrepreneurial groups like Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) and Bosses Network Youth Chapter (BNYC).

He credits The Kettle Gourmet’s success to the customers, his team and the mentors who have supported him from the start.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Your network is everything, ”Zac said.

Build a popcorn empire

Sharing his future business plans, Zac plans to turn The Kettle Gourmet into a conglomerate by creating two more F&B brands over the next three to five years, with the ultimate goal of selling the company.

“I am also interested in seizing new overseas market opportunities such as China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines,” he said.

“My team and I are currently researching and developing new regional flavors for consumers in these markets. We are also always on the lookout for good distributors and potential partners in those countries to work with. “

He added that they are currently “only five percent complete” and have a lot more flavors and interesting collaborations up their sleeves. Sharing a teaser, Zac said customers can keep an eye out for some of his latest flavors such as Fish Head Curry and Pulut Hitam.

Interested in getting some of their popcorn? Check them out now on our brand new e-commerce site here.

Featured Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet

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Jothi Venkat

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