KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Kombucha. Kefir. Even your favourite yoghurt smoothie laden with antioxidant rich berries. Probiotic drinks are here to stay.

So one can’t blame the eagle-eyed consumer if they think they have spotted a typo: Prebiotic drinks? Surely you mean probiotic?

Supergulp begs to differ. The homegrown brand offers a range of sparkling prebiotic — not probiotic — drinks in refreshing flavours such as Lychee Lemon, Lemon Lime and Watermelon Pineapple.

Lemon Lime Sparkling Prebiotics.
Lemon Lime Sparkling Prebiotics.

According to WebMD, prebiotics are “a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria. They’re carbs your body can’t digest. So they go to your lower digestive tract, where they act like food to help the healthy bacteria grow.”

Essentially, prebiotics are a type of plant fibres that promote healthy bacteria growth in your digestive system. We can obtain natural prebiotics from whole foods such as many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Transform whole foods into a convenient package or a more enjoyable form, and you have a product you can market.

Supergulp is founded by Julian Koh, 32. One might imagine the young entrepreneur hails from a food-and-beverage (F&B) background.

Supergulp founder Julian Koh.
Supergulp founder Julian Koh.

Upending expectations, Koh holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Goldsmiths, University of London. He shares, “I started my career as a designer for a women’s fashion magazine in Singapore. Over the years, I’ve transitioned into the tech industry, where most recently, I’ve been collaborating with C-level executives to drive business growth at Foodpanda.”

So how does one go from working with an online food ordering platform to handing out cans of flavoured sparkling prebiotic drinks at various sporting events?

As it turns out, the idea for Supergulp was sparked during a casual trip to the supermarket.

Koh recalls, “As someone who isn’t a fan of sugary drinks, I discovered a few Western sparkling prebiotic brands that intrigued me. After trying them, I loved the low sugar content and refreshing taste.

“That’s when I realised I wanted to make these functional beverages accessible to South-east Asian households. The name ‘Supergulp’ embodies the positivity and benefits of every gulp.”

Handing out cans of Lychee Lemon flavoured sparkling prebiotic drinks.
Handing out cans of Lychee Lemon flavoured sparkling prebiotic drinks.

But what are prebiotics?

Koh explains, “Many people are familiar with probiotics from products like Yakult, Vitagen, and the recent popularity of kombucha. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria for your gut. In contrast, Supergulp focuses on prebiotics, which are nutrients that feed these good bacteria.

“Without enough food, the beneficial bacteria can’t thrive. Supergulp offers a healthier soda alternative: it’s low in sugar, low in calories, and high in fibre.”

To develop his line of sparkling prebiotic drinks, Koh started with extensive research on ingredients that provide prebiotics and their health benefits.

He continues, “We then partnered closely with our manufacturer, dedicating significant time to research and development to perfect both the recipe and taste profile. After months of hard work, we successfully launched three unique flavours.”

The aforementioned flavours — Lychee Lemon, Lemon Lime and Watermelon Pineapple — are fruit-based and easier for consumers to accept. Lemons are featured in two of the flavours; the citrus notes typically work well with carbonated drinks.

Supergulp employs a multi-prong business model, from selling directly from their website as well as offering a subscription to customers.

Koh with new stock of Supergulp drinks ready to be delivered.
Koh with new stock of Supergulp drinks ready to be delivered.

Koh defends this approach: “In today’s consumer landscape, it’s essential to maintain a presence both online and offline. Many customers first discover our products while dining at restaurants, and then seek them out online, often motivated by discounts and promotions.”

He adds, “Our subscription model is designed for convenience — customers can place an order once, choose their delivery frequency, and then simply wait for their deliveries to arrive.”

Beyond their online storefront, Supergulp currently has partnerships with over 80 retailers, including supermarkets, convenience stores, and F&B outlets such as Qra, Village Grocer, BSC Fine Foods, Ben’s Independent Grocer, BilaBila Mart, as well as restaurants and cafés throughout Kuala Lumpur.

Clearly Koh is leaving no stone unturned with a careful but steady expansion strategy for Supergulp. With his prior experience, his first priority is to refine and strengthen his business model for sustainability.

The refreshing Watermelon Pineapple flavour.
The refreshing Watermelon Pineapple flavour.

Koh shares, “When we first started, we faced numerous challenges due to limited funds. Building the brand, securing placements in expensive retailers like supermarkets, and managing operations were significant hurdles.”

These constraints pushed Koh and his team to be more creative with their solutions. Instead of hiring an agency to design the Supergulp brand, they learned to use Adobe Illustrator and created the designs themselves.

He adds, “This experience taught us the importance of humility and the conviction to persist in achieving our business goals, knowing there’s always room for improvement as we grow.”

As Koh prepares a new stock of Supergulp drinks to be delivered, he shares that their long-term goal is “for Supergulp is to become a globally recognized leader in healthy fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). We’re planning to introduce new flavours inspired by the rich and diverse Southeast-Asian palate.

For now, readers might spot runners enjoying cans of Supergulp after their run or health-conscious shoppers adding the drink to their cart at the supermarket.

If Koh’s vision becomes a reality, Supergulp might become the default beverage all across the country, from cafés to kopitiams.

Learn more about Supergulp at:

Web: https://supergulp.co/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/supergulp.co/

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