Sally Tsai and Karin Chan first dined on Kiki noodles at the KiKi Restaurant in Taipei, and it was truly a meal to remember.
However, the noodles were not available elsewhere, and so it ended up becoming a pipe dream – just one of those foods you yearn for whenever you’re back home after a holiday.
In 2016, however, KiKi chairman Yuan Kwan Chuan shared his intentions to launch a KiKi retail line, and the women decided immediately to be the ones who made it happen in Singapore.
The KiKi Allure
Branded a healthier form of instant noodles, Tsai was almost gushing as she recalled the noodle samples Yuan sent.
“Singaporeans who love spicy food will love it! The delicate aroma instantly brought back the memories of our beloved restaurant dishes!”
“The Sun-dried noodles come in Sichuan Pepper and Aromatic Scallion. The Scallion oil noodles were light and fragrant, springy and al dente. The Sichuan pepper noodles were more intense, with a strong peppercorn fragrance and the ‘numbness’ from the pepper adds a dimension of ‘shiokness’.”
As the founders of entertainment and events marketing company Ideaholic, the pair was well equipped with the skills to launch KiKi.
“Our experience and network from the entertainment industry, as well as events background help us think differently,” shares Tsai.
“We are strong in conceptualising, organising and getting things done within a limited time frame. Creative promotions is also our forte – we like to put the element of fun into all our projects!”
In contrast, it was the regulations that stumbled them.
The 2013 maleic acid scare in Taiwan’s starchy food products had resulted in the tightening of import regulations.
“When we decided to bring KiKi Noodles into Singapore, we got all excited and blasted the news on our Facebook pages,” recalls Tsai.
“However, all starch products from Taiwan need to be sent for lab tests.”
When they found out about this rule, it was “madness with the amount of paperwork.”
The difficulties of the lingo and translations of the prerequisites they needed to fulfil caused a delay of 7 months from their planned launch date, she rued.
Considering the nature of the product, Tsai admits that the profit margin is “very, very thin”.
“The cost to import the noodles is very high, plus the unexpected costs for the lab tests for each and every new batch.”
Courier fees were also “discouraging”.
“As a new startup, we could not make that commitment,” she shares. “So we ended up getting friends to help.”
However, the overwhelming response on D-day of their online store “caught them off guard”.
“The deliveries were jammed. We had to quickly get last minute help from different dispatch companies. It was a happy problem,” Tsai laughs.
Sold Out In 6 Days
The pair had brought in 2,000 packets of noodles, equal parts Sichuan Pepper and Aromatic Scallion.
Within 6 days however, their stock was cleaned out.
We were ecstatic and over the moon when the first batch sold out! While we did foresee KiKi Noodles that would be popular, we certainly did not expect it to sell out in 6 days.
Despite their immediate success, Tsai cites the long wait and tedious lab tests procedures as being very “challenging for them and their Taiwan partner”.
“We encourage each other and brave on. Singapore is the only country left that mandates the test and we secretly hope AVA will lift that requirement soon,” she adds.
KiKi Restaurant In Singapore?
In Taiwan, KiKi is very successful, and a very popular restaurant chain serving modern Sichuan cuisine, Tsai reveals.
There are already plans to bring the restaurant into Singapore and the pair has already begun looking for the “right partner to start the ball rolling”.
“But we are not rushing, for now it’ll just be KiKi Fine Goods Singapore.”
“Aside from Aromatic Scallion and Sichuan Pepper, there are more flavours in the pipeline. For seasonings, there is already Mala paste and Sichuan Pepper spice (椒麻粉) soon to be launched.”
“The future for KiKi Fine Goods Singapore is looking bright and sunny.”
Here’s where you can check out some KiKi noodles for yourself.
Featured Image Credit: Sally Tsai