If you’re anything like me, you might skip breakfast on weekdays because you “don’t have the time for it”, AKA you want to get in another 15 minutes of sleep before work.
When lunch comes around, we hum and haw over where to eat. Some of us might skip lunch or settle for a quick McDonald’s delivery because we want to finish our work ASAP (I’ll confess I’ve done this before).
Benedict Tan or Ben understands these problems himself, saying, “I want to spend less time deciding and preparing or purchasing food. I want to spend less time eating, especially on weekdays. I also want to know what exactly goes into my food, ideally,” he said.
Upon realising that other people shared similar problems, he started up Focus Foods solo on July 4, 2019, to provide meal replacements that would make decisions easier and healthier for those who wish to save time on eating.
It’s All In The Name
Admit it, eating healthy still isn’t a regularly practised habit, and coupled with the convenience of junk food within any walking distance, it’s easy to tell ourselves “tomorrow I’ll eat healthily”.
Focus Foods wants to solve the difficulty of finding affordable healthy food that can be conveniently transported and consumed, “so we don’t have to let our lack of willpower, which is always the case especially when we’re hungry and caught up with work, [let us] give in to convenient junk,” Ben said.
Their products are marketed as hyper-convenient superfoods which means that they come in single-serving packaging and can be easily carried around. “We also aim for a 2-minute duration from preparation to consumption,” he added.
The kind of individual Ben believes will find Focus Foods’ products useful is someone who’s a high performer, wants to stay focused and achieve more to live life to the fullest, cares about their body and mental health, and always finds that there’s too little time in a day.
Focus Foods’ name comes from “focus, because we want you to focus on the important things in life, and food, because after all that’s the biggest input into our system and that’s the main medium to achieve the former,” explained Ben.
Not Meant To Completely Replace Traditional Meals
Ben said, “We recommend replacing 1–2 meals with our product daily or supplemented as a snack, but we don’t vouch for it replacing traditional meals because while our ‘Liquid Meal’ does provide nutrients that may be lacking in traditional meals, traditional meals might also provide nutrients that may be lacking in a ‘Liquid Meal’. We believe a balance of both is necessary.”
A 350kcal Liquid Meal sachet costs RM9.90, and it’s a chocolate-flavoured shake that claims to be vegan-friendly with zero trans fats and zero cholesterol. Its preparation requires 2 steps: adding cold water and shaking it up.
Focus Fuel (RM2.50 per sachet) is Yerba Mate tea that has the “caffeine equivalent from a cup of coffee, with all the goodness of tea: anti-oxidants, immunity boosters, etc.” said Ben, and Breakfast 2.0 (RM5.50 per sachet) is the brand’s take on Bulletproof Coffee, containing C8 MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil and Yerba Mate.
For a healthier snack, they offer The Perfect Snack at RM5.90, which are 40g daily packs of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and roasted chickpeas.
More Education On Healthy Eating Needed
One of Focus Foods’ biggest challenges has been getting Malaysians to warm up to the idea of meal replacements, as Ben said that their products are “completely new” and meal replacements are commonly only found in the bodybuilding scene.
“We’ve created this vegan-friendly, single-serve bottle that is foreign to most people, a lot of education is needed. While not everything that works in the US and UK works here, we believe we can make that happen because we’re offering value: convenience, affordability, and healthy superfoods,” Ben said.
To tackle this challenge, “We’re currently using our website as the main sales channel, as it can do all the ‘talking’ needed for such a new product, and we’re still revising our label to do more ‘talking’, to make it more supermarket-shelf-ready,” he said.
Despite only having been operational for less than 2 months, Ben proudly shared that they’ve been seeing sales growth double week-to-week, with people making repeat orders and buying a month’s supply of Focus Foods’ meal replacements.
“When people believe in us, they’re really realising our mission: to make people physically fit and mentally sharp, in a hyper-convenient way so they can focus on things that matter in life,” he beamed.
Superfoods For A Healthier Lifestyle
According to Ben, the market potential for hyper-convenient superfoods in Malaysia is almost unlimited.
“This hasn’t been done in Malaysia yet but our counterparts in the US, and more so in the UK, have sold millions of servings—and they continue to grow. And we’re only talking about meal replacements,” he said.
“We’re still optimising our product-market fit at the moment. Besides being hyper-convenient, we believe that in order to make this a holistic lifestyle, we want more products introduced that will cover you through the entire cycle of the day: when you wake up, your day of work/workout/leisure, and even to help sleep better.”
Focus Foods delivers within 2–3 working days for Malaysian orders and within a week for other locations like Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
Their products aren’t available in physical stores currently, but Ben shared that they may consider a brick and mortar place or at least a pop-up, “because we want to educate people in the flesh”.
I’ll admit that my first thought on Focus Foods’ Liquid Meal was that it’s pricey in comparison to something like mixed rice (my meatless dishes cost around RM6 at most), which I can confirm is a filling meal.
I’m not a healthy eater at all so I’m clueless about the supposed health benefits of all these superfoods (which is a status for foods despite not having a scientifically-based or regulated definition), but I’d be willing to give meal replacements a try if that meant I could prepare and consume a “meal” within 5 minutes.
- You can find out more about Focus Foods here.
Featured Image Credit: Focus Foods