From Flea Market To Retail Stores – How 3 Brothers Scaled Up Their Salted Egg Fish Skin Biz
From the music that greets you at every shopping mall – you’ll know it’s that time of the year again.
Even if you’re not one to go shopping, a visit to your friendly neighbourhood supermarket would already hint its arrival.
Yes, the calorie-laden Chinese New Year season is impending, and so is the pressure for many to stockpile their houses with sufficient snacks for guests.
For the more traditional households, pineapple tarts and bak kwa are the way to go; but ‘new wave’ CNY snacks like deep fried crab sticks and salted egg fish skin are also crowd pleasers.
And it seems like more and more F&B companies are coming up with their own versions of the latter, in a fierce competition for market share.
One of these competitors is Snacky & Crisps, a family-run startup that bravely ventured into the cutthroat world of F&B with 1 product – salted egg fish skin snacks.
When A Chef Meets An Engineer And Business Development Officer
Founded by 3 Singaporean brothers, aged 27 to 33, Snacky & Crisps was formed out of a love for local cuisine, but also the realisation that there was a lack of “gourmet yet traditional” local snacks available in the market.
More than that, the brothers always wanted to have “something to call their own”.
But what may come as a surprise is that the brothers all have varying backgrounds.
Kenny (33), the eldest of the 3, was formerly an Assistant Principal Engineer, Kayson (27) was previously a Business Development Officer, and Johnathan (30), was a chef – and the one behind the recipe.
Unsurprisingly, the roots of Snacky & Crisps stemmed from a family gathering in 2015, where “they contemplated seriously about the idea” of creating a recipe for salted egg snacks “that would be superior to the incumbents through the usage of premium, natural ingredients without any preservatives or MSG”.
“As they always say, the rest was history.”
Each brother also has a particular role to play in the operation.
Kenny pumped in the initial capital and eventually took over kitchen operations; Kayson takes the lead on business development and marketing, and Johnathan is in charge of recipe and product R&D.
6 Months Of Trial And Error Before Getting The Perfect Recipe
In mid-2015, Snack’cy (its first name) was formed, and the brothers sold their first packet of salted egg fish skin to the public at a flea market in early 2016.
If you’re wondering why it took so long from inception to first sale, it’s because finalising the recipe was a process that took 6 gruelling (and jelak) months of trial and error.
“John naturally took lead during the initial creation process given his culinary background, while the other 2 brothers played the role of guinea pigs.”
Failures were aplenty during the trial and error process that also brought about many anecdotes. The brothers ate so much fish skin that they were literally sick of the sight of fish.
“At the end of the day, the one who suffered the most was their mum, who had to see her beloved kitchen reduced to becoming a laboratory.”
But even after perfecting their unique recipe, standing out from competitors was the tricky part.
“Back in 2015, there were 2-3 prominent brands – Irvin’s Salted Egg and Golden Duck being the lead at that time – specialising in salted egg snacks. Honestly, we didn’t do much to stand out back then as we lacked the marketing expertise and background.”
With all holding onto their full-time jobs, it was also difficult for them to concentrate their efforts on their budding business.
“That has changed since [they left their jobs], and they now dedicate all their time to the business. They have also decided to engage the services of a boutique digital marketing agency – The Social Steward, to spearhead their digital marketing efforts.”
“Countless Rejections, Even From Friends And Family”
But the road to success isn’t smooth, and they admit that the greatest challenge was getting the masses to try their product.
More than just facing rejection from consumers, they had to endure the same treatment from friends and family members “whom they thought would lend some support”.
Another challenge they faced was in terms of the supply of quality fish skin, an inevitable problem given the sheer number of players entering the market with their own version of the snack.
Not wanting to let their customers down, Kayson immediately “rallied all the contacts he had, and after weeks of non-stop calls and meetings, he eventually managed to secure an additional fish skin supplier”.
He also noted that in their journey so far, they are “fortunate to have received some help from their distribution partners with regards to working capital”.
For Snacky & Crisps, their main marketing strategies are via digital marketing and word-of-mouth.
The latter has been particularly important because they are “endorsements from consumers to their friends and family members”.
“The hit rate of our customers being exposed to our product from food sampling to advocacy is pretty high, and this is something which we are not taking advantage of so far.”
To leverage on this, they intend to further build up awareness of their brand via roadshows and opening more distribution channels so customers can taste their products wherever they are.
Currently, they’re not just an online business – they’re also stocked at Fairprice Finest and Discover Singapore (Changi Airport) outlets.
They are also in talks to get more stockists on board – an example being convenience stores.
On 11 Feb, they’re also due to launch their flagship store at The Midtown (also home of influencer Bong Qiu Qiu’s cereal cafe), where customers can pick up online orders or grab-and-go the snacks.
The brothers estimate they sell an average of hundred packets per day, about 50% increment as compared to 2016, and this varies accordingly to seasonality.
New Flavours, Pocket-Friendly Snacks
Not wanting to be a one-trick pony, they’ve also recently released laksa-flavoured potato chips – just in time for the Chinese New Year period.
Can we expect more local-cuisine inspired flavours from them soon?
Definitely! In fact, there are already intentions to “step up on R&D and regularly launch new and innovative flavours to differentiate themselves from competitors”.
They also pride themselves to be “very open to constructive feedback from customers and are willing to incorporate feedback to improve their product”, so do feel free to share with them your comments!
As for future plans, they’re also planning to start selling smaller-sized, more pocket-friendly versions of their snacks, so that you can munch away without the worry of overeating.
When the snacks are that addictive, stopping at a few pieces is definitely impossible – trust me, I’ve tried.
Check out Snacky & Crisps at their Facebook page here, where a 1-for-1 promotion is happening from 11 Feb to 14 Feb!
Snacky & Crisps1187 Upper Serangoon Road, The Midtown
#01-44, Singapore 533971