She invested S$200K to turn fruits and vegetables into snacks

After graduating with an MA in Architecture from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2009, Emily Chu began her career as a client-side architect.

While taking care of new property launches, she was intrigued by the brand’s creativity and marketing, so she joined the US agency 8inc as a project manager in 2013.

The same year, she launched her own boutique agency Grafix Design, specializing in branding and the digitization of small businesses.

While leading Grafix in 2016, she completed her MBA (Master of Business Administration) in New Zealand. She then flew to Hong Kong to market Singapore’s largest fish farm, Kühlbarra.

The following year, she returned to Singapore to start her own healthy snack business called Hey! Chips.

From farm to table

“As a mountain lover, I often go on outdoor adventures. I needed foods that were nutritious, light and, most importantly, not terrible and boring. I have noticed that healthy and tasty are often incompatible. Being passionate about cooking, I wanted to create a snack that was both healthy and delicious, ”said Emily.

She thought that vacuum frying technology – which is already being used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to feed astronauts in space – can help achieve both of these.

Hey!  broccoli chips
Hey! Crisps in Broccoli / Image Credit: Hey! Chips

It dehydrates food at low temperature (60 to 80 ° C), retaining natural nutrients, colors and flavors.

The technology is different from conventional methods like deep frying, baking, roasting or air frying which use heat to cook the ingredients. This method promises low levels of oxidation, while still delivering a crispy mouthfeel like the fried snacks we crave.

– Emily Chu, founder of Hey! Chips

According to Emily, what sets them apart from other snack companies is that they are the “first (local) farm-to-table fruit and vegetable snack.”

“The majority of mass food products that are presented to us (along with) in supermarkets are not healthy. (For) Hey! Chips, I focus on perfecting it with a great, unpretentious taste by bringing out the good quality of natural ingredients, and I don’t submit to food fads and moving trends, ”she said.

Three years to perfect the product

Hey!  emily chu chips
Image Credit: Hey! Chips

To start the business, Emily invested S $ 100,000 of her personal savings and gathered additional S $ 100,000 of investments from her local network to start it.

She spent about three years in research and development (R&D) before finally perfecting the product.

Since I wanted to have as real a snack as possible, it was a long process to select a partner that resonated with my conviction to take care of the eating process. It was only after traveling extensively, visiting farms, factories, and meeting partners, that I concluded that the only way to get a good quality snack was to stock up and make the crisps at proximity.

Eventually I found a trusted partner in Thailand and then we performed repeated testing on various fruits and vegetables with the technology to perfect the snack.

– Emily Chu, founder of Hey! Chips

While developing the product, she managed to establish a relationship with a network of farms from different parts of Thailand so that they could have a steady supply all year round.

Emily pointed out that Hey! The varieties of crisps must be grown in Thailand so that they can be sourced directly from local farmers. With fresh ingredients, they can produce fresh tasting crisps.

“My belief in traceability is that we have not tried to make strawberry or apple chips (because they) are not native plants in Thailand. If we were to import our ingredients, it wouldn’t be possible to examine our ingredients at this level of detail, ”she said.

“Our traceable sourcing has also allowed us to ensure that better wages reach our farmers and are not lost in the conventional supply chain. “

Hey!  variety box of crisps
Hey! Box of Variety of Crisps / Image Credit: Hey! Chips

So far, Hey! Chips has developed interesting flavors of fruits and vegetables, including mango, pineapple, okra (lady’s finger), broccoli, onion and cherry tomato. Beyond these varieties, they also launched three trail mixes with mixed fruit crisps.

When asked if there were any flavors that weren’t picked up, Emily confessed that they tried making corn, sweet potato, durian, and coconut chips during the phase. of R&D, but that they had not passed their taste tests despite several iterations.

Sold six packs every two minutes

Hey! Chips adopt an onmichannel strategy. In addition to maintaining an active digital presence, they also make a point of physically interacting with customers to educate them on basic food manufacturing knowledge.

In 2019, they held 20 events, but the number has dropped significantly due to Covid-19 restrictions. This year, they’ve only joined five events so far.

When Hey! Crisps participated in the events, customers responded positively to their crisps, praising the fact that their snacks kept the real taste of fruits and vegetables.

Hey!  fries
Image Credit: Hey! Chips

At the 2019 Sprout Farmers Market, they sold a six-packet every two minutes.

“In the beginning, there were times when my tokens were sold unexpectedly at events. To keep my promises on standing orders, I had taken many same-day flights to my factory in Thailand and brought the chips back with me on the plane, ”Emily said.

Confidence is everything in business – it cannot be built overnight, but can be destroyed very easily.

For me that always means delivering on what I promise, minimizing mistakes, and being responsible for the mistakes I make. In my experience, I find that good opportunities only present themselves once people start to trust me, my business and / or my products.

– Emily Chu, founder of Hey! Chips

The challenges of Covid-19

At the beginning of February 2020, we had just finished the production of a few multinational customers with nearly a container of crisps. When the lockdown began, offices and retailers had to cancel their orders. From an aggressive growth phase, we have come to a complete stop.

The situation forced me to explore digital tools. I have been trying to liquidate the stock with offers and (live trade) for a while. When 50% of the stock was liquidated, I stopped everything and focused on building my ecommerce ecosystem.

– Emily Chu, founder of Hey! Chips

Hey!  fries
Screenshot of Hey! Chip Website / Image Credit: Hey! Chips

Their website was completed in November of last year and they are now also listed on other ecommerce platforms such as Lazada, Redmart, Shopee, and FairPrice Finest as well. They have also entered into a collaboration with many other smaller websites.

According to Emily, they have more than 30 percent repeat online shopping, which is much higher than the average (less than 10 percent) for staple foods.

In 2019, Hey! Chips sold 30,000 packets of snacks. When Covid-19 hit in 2020, sales dropped significantly to 18,000 packs, but they have since rebounded. In the first half of 2021, Hey! Chips has sold 50,000 packs so far.

Based on sales so far, Emily predicts that they will break even by Q4 2021.

“In a competitive city, a number of unhealthy food products gain attention every two days and consumers are sensitive to unhealthy products,” Emily observed.

While the trend towards healthy eating is accelerating, keeping their snack on top of a large digital audience is costly.

In addition, the downside of using real, fresh ingredients means that their production cost is very high, resulting in a higher retail price.

“As a lesser-known type of snack, regular mass-market customers would find the price of $ 4.50 per pack much more expensive than regular potato chips. Most consumers do not understand the intricacies of nutritional facts and ingredient lists that would explain our point of difference.

Gaining a share of the snack market

Hey!  fries
Image Credit: Hey! Chips

The snack market is very saturated, so what is their strategy to sustain in this competitive industry?

Emily does not deny the competitive nature of the snack industry and said that since customers have extremely short attention spans, especially with the growth of digital media and e-commerce (players), they don’t ‘have no choice but to think long term in every move. that they undertake.

First, the product must be able to stand the test of time. I take a relatively long time to develop the products to achieve a lasting advantage. Although there are other fruit and vegetable chips on the market, it is almost impossible to find a substitute at this level of excellence.

Second, since a large portion of our revenue comes from distributors, retailers and corporate customers, we must make serving customers well our first priority. Every project and every deal should be executed without a hitch, as trust is difficult to build.

Newcomer snacks come and go, but a trusted brand that always delivers on time and with quality will succeed over time.

– Emily Chu, founder of Hey! Chips

Sharing her future business plans, Emily revealed that she has ambitions to venture to Malaysia, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as Singapore is a rather small market.

“We have a small presence because we receive ad hoc orders from these countries. It is a matter of time for us to find the right distributors to continue our journey on a global scale, ”she added.

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Featured Image Credit: Hey! Chips

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