Entrepreneur

From Tech to F&B: He Runs A Food Truck Selling 'Impossible' Burgers To Join The Green Fight

The Impossible Foods trend took Singapore by storm when it first made its debut here last year.

For those unacquainted, Impossible Foods is a Silicon Valley-based firm that develops plant-based substitutes for meat products.

Thanks to their innovation, vegetarians were excited at the idea of indulging in a plant-based burger that tastes like meat without compromising on their dietary restrictions.

Meanwhile, others were simply fascinated at the idea of a plant-based burger that looks, smells, and tastes just like real meat. It even ‘bleeds’ like a rare beef, with a juicy pinkish-red centre.

Lee Ken Ming, 42, can attest to the hype. When he first tried it last year, he was “amazed that a plant-based burger can taste just like real meat.”

Impossible is the most convincing plant-based meat at the moment and tastes so much like the real thing. If I didn’t tell you it’s plant-based, you’d think you’re eating real beef!

It’s so good that investors like Bill Gates, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Serena Williams, will.i.am and even Singapore’s own Temasek invested in it.

– Lee Ken Ming, co-founder of The Goodburger

Good Burgers With Good Intentions

The serial entrepreneur saw the trend as a viable business opportunity, and this sparked the idea of selling Impossible burgers — on a food truck.

the goodburger singapore
Ken Ming (middle), co-founder of The Goodburger / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

He wanted to “stand out” from the crowd of other F&B players in Singapore that have already jumped on the Impossible Foods bandwagon, such as Fat Papas, Omakase Burger and most recently, fast food chain MOS Burger.

Beyond being a mere business opportunity, Ken Ming also saw it as a way to do good by promoting sustainability and advocating for a kinder world, one burger at a time.

That’s why we named our brand The Goodburger — not just because we serve good burgers, but also because no animals were slaughtered to make our burgers.

– Lee Ken Ming, co-founder of The Goodburger

He went on to share some astounding facts about the ways in which animal agriculture is harmful.

For starters, the meat industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all modes of transport combined, such as cars, buses, trucks and planes.

And believe it or not — it takes a whopping 15,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of beef.

He also shared that “50 billion animals are slaughtered every year just to satisfy our (meat) cravings,” adding that animals in slaughterhouses are cruelly treated, causing them extreme suffering.

“Can you imagine the conditions to produce beef for a $2 burger?” he asked rhetorically.

The Shift From Popcorn To Burgers

The Goodburger may be the first F&B venture that he runs together with his wife Sophia Shen, but it’s definitely not the first business they’ve done together.

The couple run Caviar, a digital marketing consultancy. They also created a local food guide called Picky and movie booking app Popcorn.

popcorn movie app
Popcorn app / Image Credit: Popcorn

Popcorn was founded in 2012, offering movie-related information such as trailers, news, reviews and showtimes.

The app garnered over 5 million downloads to date and has expanded to six other regional markets, including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Popcorn has grown from strength-to-strength to become Singapore’s favourite movie app — we are top on iTunes, Google Play and Google Search for most movie-related searches.

– Lee Ken Ming, co-founder of The Goodburger

Most recently, they partnered with MediaCorp to help support it in delivering marketing solutions to clients through the provision of branded content.

“(The Goodburger) is our first F&B venture, but it’s not a transition as we are still very much committed to building Popcorn. We decided to start The Goodburger as a way of joining the green fight,” said Ken Ming.

“We are just regular folks trying to cut down on meat because we knew it is bad for the planet. We were blown away the more we learned about how the environment is being destroyed by animal agriculture.”

First In S’pore To Exclusively Serve ‘Impossible’ Menu

Ken Ming describes The Goodburger as an “updated and internationalised” concept that serves American-style burgers.

the goodburger singapore
The Classic (left) and The Black Tie (right) / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Their menu is actually very lean, offering three curated burger offerings: ‘The Classic’ cheeseburger, ‘The Black Tie’ (comes with truffle aioli and rocket leaves) and a Thai-inspired ‘One Night In Bangkok’.

Prices start from S$16 and goes up to S$26 for a double patty.

When asked why they decided to start out with a food truck, he explained that the mobile option allows them to reach different audiences. Instead of targeting only vegetarians and vegans, they chose to target 90% of the population who eat meat to “truly drive change”.

“In a way, it’s also a way for us to build a MVP (minimum-viable-product) to validate our ideas.”

According to Ken Ming, The Goodburger is Singapore’s first and only outlet that exclusively sells ‘Impossible’ food.

“We use 100% Impossible in our burgers compared to some outlets who use a lot of fillers,” he added.

The downside to this however, is the high ingredient cost.

Ken Ming shared that an Impossible “costs as much as a good quality Black Angus beef”, which explains why an Impossible burger costs more than a regular burger.

Regardless, he strives to keep The Goodburger accessible to as many people as possible by making theirs “one of the most affordable Impossible burgers in town.”

They’ve Served At The Istana, Artbox 2019 And More

The Goodburger started doing pop-up events in the middle of 2019, and began daily operations at Marina Bay in November last year.

To raise their brand awareness, Ken Ming made it a point to participate in “high-profile events” such as Sentosa Grillfest, Heineken F1 Party, Artbox 2019 and the recent Light to Night festival.

the goodburger singapore
The Goodburger at Light to Night festival / Image Credit: The Goodburger

Sentosa Grillfest, in particular, was memorable because it was their first major event. Their food truck enjoyed “crazy long queues” with hundreds of people lining up to try their burgers.

While the burgers they served were good (pun intended), Ken Ming also attributed the popularity of their burgers to food review features by ‘Food King’ and other food bloggers.

They’ve also been invited to the Istana where they helped raise funds for the President’s Challenge and scored the rare opportunity to serve their burgers to President Halimah Yaacob.

Ken Ming said that they typically take up a few events, including private parties, every month.

For upcoming events, The Goodburger will be serving at the Istana’s Chinese New Year Open House and Garden Beats Festival 2020.

A Veteran Entrepreneur In A New Industry

Although Ken Ming is a veteran entrepreneur, he is a newbie in the F&B industry so he inevitably “faced the usual learning curve”. Staffing for one, remains a key business challenge.

Despite the struggles, Ken Ming is thankful for the advice and support he has received from industry veterans which helped him pull through.

My advice would be to tap on all the advice by the great leaders, entrepreneurs and visionaries that are already out there In this day and age, all of human knowledge is at the tips of our fingers — it would be a waste not to make use of it!

– Lee Ken Ming, co-founder of The Goodburger

When asked to share his future plans for The Goodburger, Ken Ming did not rule out the possibility of expanding to a physical outlet in the near future.

“Our vision is to build a chain of plant-based restaurants so people have more options to go meat-free,” he added.

The Goodburger is at The Promontory (Tuesday to Friday, 12pm to 3pm) and at Bayfront Link (Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm to 9pm). For location updates, follow them on their Instagram page.


Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post

 

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