KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — Creamy and silky, like the softest butter, only not quite butter. That’s how most of us fancy our milk spreads, whether it’s made with hazelnuts or chocolate. More often than not, however, such spreads can be tooth-achingly sweet (white chocolate spreads, for example).
Osuda Matcha, a matcha milk spread, aims to remedy this with their more bitter than sweet flavour. Imagine a rich, luxurious crème that’s more green tea than milk. What’s more remarkable is that this isn’t an import from Japan but made in Malaysia!
Thus far the only homegrown matcha milk spread in the market, Osuda Matcha is founded by university mates Mika Goh and Bone Cheah, both 27. The University Tunku Abdul Rahman graduates (Goh in marketing and Cheah in finance) came up with the idea for their product thanks to their girlfriends, who are fans of the green tea powder.
Goh says, “Our girlfriends are always looking for good matcha products and they couldn’t get them easily. One day we tried an imported matcha spread brand from Korea that was selling very well. But it didn’t really satisfy us. That’s when we decided to come out with our own product.”
Given how many would-be F&B (food & beverage) entrepreneurs are more focused on being foodies than crunching numbers, the duo’s business-oriented background was a slight advantage for them when they started.
The learning curve was still steep, as Cheah recalls, “Neither of us have any background in F&B as we are from the sales and marketing line. Therefore, we spent a lot of time researching the recipe to provide our customers with the best matcha taste possible. We agreed that, besides applying it on bread, there is still a lot of creative room with our product.”
Beyond spreading it on wholegrain bread or crunchy toast, other suggestions for enjoying the matcha milky spread include layering between fluffy pancakes or as part of a fruit and granola bowl. Instead of chocolate, matcha fans can dip strawberries in it. Drizzled on a freshly baked croissant, an artsy matcha pastry is born! Even local treats such as kansui zhang (alkaline dumpling) can get the matcha treatment.
Osuda Matcha’s first hurdle was in educating consumers about a different type of matcha product, which they achieved through their social media accounts. Goh says, “By ‘Osuda’, we mean the belief in growing step by step. Our whole concept is to build up the matcha culture of Malaysia and South-east Asia to another level, because we truly believe in the benefits of matcha to improve our lifestyle.”
Right now, the duo is banking on their first mover advantage in entering a relatively nascent market. Even so, there is always the threat of bigger players moving in to introduce their own versions. A larger company would have greater capacity, in terms of both volume and cost, so Osuda Matcha has to anticipate the challenge by positioning themselves differently from more mass market competitors.
Cheah explains, “As what we can see, we are the first and only in Malaysia for this matcha spread product. Therefore, there is not much of competition yet. How we differentiate ourself with others is to focus more on the niche market, by providing all the matcha fans the real taste of matcha which has a slightly bitter aftertaste. Most of the matcha spread in the market are imported from Korea which will taste slightly milkier and sweeter.”
According to Goh, they appointed a factory in Malaysia to manufacture their products as “we want everything to be systematic, clean and safe — to make sure that our fans are enjoying the best quality from us. Our main ingredient, the matcha powder, is imported from Japan. We have chosen the highest grade among all matcha powders to bring out the taste of bitterness.”
The young entrepreneurs are keenly aware of the need to keep ahead of the curve. Cheah says, “We are not experienced businessmen so we spent a lot of time and money to attend classes to improve ourself. Everyday is a learning day for us; our daily quote is ‘Keep Learning, Stay Humble.’ There are lot of great people teaching us and helping us to get closer to our target.”
Being a two-man operation means that the duo has to stick close and iron out any issues before it becomes a problem. Goh says, “We discuss the causes for any failures and come out with new ideas to overcome it before it gets worse The most important thing is to stay calm and be persistent. There is still a long way to go but we believe that as long as we put our hearts into it, we will keep growing.”
It’s a good thing the guys behind Osuda Matcha plan on growing... for their very grown-up spread is certainly growing on matcha fans.