Edamame milk, anyone? How the MCO motivated this Malaysian entrepreneur to develop plant-based drinks and snacks

Malaysian-made edamame milk by 白白 PutihPutih. – Pictures courtesy of 白白 PutihPutih
Malaysian-made edamame milk by 白白 PutihPutih. – Pictures courtesy of 白白 PutihPutih

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — Plant-based “milk” beverages are all the rage right now. Some prefer old-school soy milk while others enjoy adding almond milk to their cereal.

Baristas would tell you oat milk is the way to go, if only because their latte art stays pretty without the “milk” splitting.

It is a huge business. According to Global Market Insights, the global plant milk market exceeded US$12 billion (RM48.5 billion) in 2019, with revenue expected to hit US$21 billion (RM84.9 billion) by 2026.

Enter 白白 PutihPutih, a homegrown purveyor of edamame products. Founded by Estica Teh, the brand currently has two main product offerings: edamame milk and roasted edamame.

But why edamame? Apparently, the inspiration to start 白白 PutihPutih came up after Teh’s trip to a farmer's market in Thailand.

Snack-loving Estica Teh started 白白 PutihPutih to share her passion for edamame.
Snack-loving Estica Teh started 白白 PutihPutih to share her passion for edamame.

She recalls, “They had a display selling a very specific edamame milk beverage. Purely due to my own love of edamame, I started trying out different types of beans that can be sourced both locally and imported from Thailand, Taiwan and Japan.”

According to Teh, due to the different origins and size of beans, the flavour and taste of the resulting edamame and edamame products will also differ, sometimes dramatically.

The first part of the brand’s name is pronounced as “Bái Bái” – meaning “White White” in Mandarin, while “Putih Putih” means the same in Malay. The repetitive nature evokes the roadside vendors of yesteryear who would holler “Kacang putih, kacang putih...”

That quirky sense of fun is part of both the brand and its founder’s appeal.

With a major in Graphic Design & Multimedia, Teh has always been into art-related and creative endeavours. She adds, “On the side, I’m a big fan of snacks, all kinds of snacks just so you know. As of now, I’m managing 34 clients’ Facebook pages as a social media admin as well as the co-founder of Pingmin Market and Pingmin Grocer.”

As with other plant-based milks, edamame beans have to be soaked in water first.
As with other plant-based milks, edamame beans have to be soaked in water first.

Due to the movement control order (MCO), some of Teh’s work and projects had either been disrupted or delayed. With more time on her hands, she decided to re-focus on experimenting with different snacks as well as exploring other opportunities.

The confluence of both these pursuits turned out to be 白白 PutihPutih, purportedly the first to offer edamame milk in Malaysia.

Teh says, “I’m fortunate in a way whereby I’m the first and the product self-distinguishes from other similar products that are in the market. The higher cost of production and time involved also deters a lot of new entrants.”

The process to produce edamame milk is tedious, Teh shares. Similar to other plant-based milk beverages, it begins with the soaking of the beans overnight followed by time-consuming preparation and bottling.

She says, “After an all-out research of both local and imported beans, I then decided on promoting edamame milk, with a pure and high concentration of edamame. All steps had been taken with care to the point of bottling whereby all glass bottles are sterilised beforehand.”

Lots of pods are needed to make a pot of edamame milk.
Lots of pods are needed to make a pot of edamame milk.

As for the roasted edamame, it was introduced as a natural continuation of 白白 PutihPutih’s edamame product offering. Teh says, “It offers our customers an additional option to a healthier snack. Besides that, it can also be kept for a longer time as it has a longer shelf life in comparison to our edamame milk.”

The opportunity with edamame might be perception: Some of us are familiar with it as a beer snack at a Japanese izakaya but not many of us would associate it with roasted nuts and seeds that have a wider application.

You would think nothing of munching on almonds, pistachios, walnuts and cashew nuts at home and at work, but edamame seems more pigeon-holed as a Japanese-style appetiser.

Teh hopes to change this viewpoint: “As a matter of fact, edamame are basically immature soybeans that are still in their pods. They are also very rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. In particular, vitamin C which can be easily absorbed by all as well as lactose-intolerant individuals.”

Another way Teh is counting on 白白 PutihPutih differentiating itself is through adding value. She explains, “Other similar products that you can find in the market contain less than three per cent of the bean itself, which is the primary ingredient. A huge portion of the plant-based milk beverages contains up to 90 per cent water, whereas the balance is made up of food stabilisers – additives, preservatives, colouring, etc.”

Teh and her part-time assistant Stacey at the 白白 PutihPutih stall at Pingmin Market.
Teh and her part-time assistant Stacey at the 白白 PutihPutih stall at Pingmin Market.

Most importantly, it’s very hard to find.

The value proposition of freshly-pressed edamame milk in Malaysia is one Teh believes consumers will appreciate.

She says, “All you can find are pre-packed plant-based milk beverages in supermarkets. On the other hand, our quality has been very well-received. So far, none could resist the rich, flavourful and yet healthy taste of our edamame milk. In order to achieve that, we ensure that our beverage contains up to 50 per cent of the primary ingredient.”

Producing freshly-pressed edamame milk in our warm and humid climate isn’t without its challenges, however. Two major concerns are storage and delivery.

Teh notes, “As our edamame milk does not contain any preservatives, it can only be kept for a maximum of two to three days with the proper storage instructions. Thus, we have to ensure our product quality remains optimum during the storage and delivery process so that our customers are always satisfied upon receiving their orders.”

A box of roasted edamame is perfect for snacking.
A box of roasted edamame is perfect for snacking.

At the moment, 白白 PutihPutih delivers up to 100 areas in the Klang Valley, covering both Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Teh says, “We will keep our focus online for now as the MCO has returned. However, we hope that we can extend our collaboration with cafés that are also aiming towards a healthier and greener lifestyle.”

Ultimately Teh hopes 白白 PutihPutih will be able to roll out and deliver a more diversified product and service range in the future. She concludes, “We need to take extra care by starting to learn how to eat and drink healthier. Starting now is not too late!”

To learn more about白白 PutihPutih, visit facebook.com/putihputihedamame/.