Amazin’ Graze’s healthy granola and snack products first hit shelves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back in 2015. Fast earning itself a loyal and growing community, the brand is now stocked in over 150 outlets throughout Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong,
Seeking to leave an empowering imprint on the wellness industry and encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to start their own ventures, Co-Founder Amy Zheng has demonstrated how niche startups can fight industry giants through creativity, heart and pure grit.
Following a career in public policy and the social sector; including work with the UN and World Bank on justice and prison reform, the 33-year-old turned to the private sector and joined management consultancy agency BCG. Leaving the corporate lane after 4 years to become a yoga teacher, it was then that she met Ching Yi Lee.
Passionate about food and healthy living, Lee was part of the spark that lead to Amazin’ Graze, and together with Sabrina How, they would soon join Zheng to found a brand that has changed the face of healthy snacks in the region.
Here, Zheng talks to Welltodo about building a brand, expanding internationally and creating empowering food at affordable prices…….
On starting a healthy snack brand in Malaysia….
After realising that there was an unmet need in Malaysia (and Asia in general) for healthy and tasty snacks, How, Ching and I began experimenting with healthy ingredients using traditional Asian flavours such as Gula Melaka, Pandan and Curry. We discovered wonderful things can happen when you combine nutritional science with Asian flavours, and as orders from our friends and family grew, we decided to start this business in earnest to make yummy, healthy Asian-inspired snacks available for everyone.
Our vision for Amazin’ Graze was to inspire a generation of authentic, conscious and passionate people wanting to do the right thing for themselves, for their communities and the environment. We continue to do this by offering people easy access to great-tasting and empowering food at affordable prices while running our business with integrity and social responsibility.
On getting the business off the ground….
The most important decision that turned our concept into a reality was when we rented a small facility as our first central kitchen, warehouse and retail store –– this allowed us to hire our first kitchen manager and the rest followed. Before this, we were sourcing everything ourselves and baking at our home kitchen which limited growth. We have outgrown this space already but it will always be remembered as the place where everything took off.
On defining success….
When we first started the business at weekend markets, our goal was to sell all the products that we had made that week. As Amazin’ Graze grew, success for us became: how easily can people find our products and how well known are we amongst our target market.
Today, success also encompasses how happy our team is and whether we are successfully building purpose-driven people in our organisation. We realise that we are in the business of touching and empowering people – whether it’s our customers or our own team, and we succeed when people become more authentic, socially conscious and passionate as a result of an encounter with our brand.
On building a brand…..
Our first port of call was to get people to try the product and see the brand, so we signed up for all the major weekend markets and events to introduce our products to our target customers. Through this, we met hundreds and thousands of people and were able to explain the philosophy behind our brand and get people to sample our products. More than 50% of people who tried our products converted into customers.
Many of these customers have now become loyal online customers as well as retail customers.
On setting Amazin’ Graze apart from its competitors…..
We are constantly thinking about the answer to this question but at present, I think it’s the authenticity and realness of the brand as well as the innovation and creativity that sets us apart from our competitors.
The packaged and healthy snack industry has always been dominated by FMCG giants such as Nestle and Kelloggs who are slow to change, but we are able to offer freshness, a realness and honesty to our ingredients which often gets eroded with size.
As a small, nimble player, we are able to innovate without red tape and take customer feedback immediately into the research and development process.
We keep healthy eating and snacking exciting for our customers as they get new collections every season (Ramadan, Christmas, Chinese New Year) and fun occasion-specific flavours.
On managing rapid growth across Asia…..
Growing a business is really challenging, but what keeps us going is our vision and mission, as well as a great team of people who are united. My business partners are amazing women and they keep me honest, motivated and loving.
We are always testing new things in order to learn so I guess there are no mistakes that we regret. However, one thing that I think we could have been more thoughtful about is the speed of our international expansion.
When we first launched the business, it seemed like a good idea to expand overseas as quickly as possible. Looking back now, our lives would have been a lot easier if we’d focused on growing our presence in Malaysia first.
On changing course…..
Early on, we tried to integrate a healthy snacks subscription model into the business but quickly realised that our strength was in building a brand with our signature products.
The subscription model does not work well for products that are easily obtainable and our population does not support this kind of business model.
For us, the turning point was when we finally decided to stop our snack subscription model and focus on making and distributing a limited set of high-quality snacks that people love.
On future plans for Amazin’ Graze…..
Our goal is to grow a brand that will last.
We are building strong foundations for Amazin’ Graze at the moment by improving our existing product range, coming up with new healthy treats that people will love, increasing and improving our production capabilities and working on building a lasting brand.