Singaporean

How This Superfood Biz Became One Of The Top 100 Fastest Growing Firms In S'pore

A Singaporean superfoods company has made it to the Financial Times’ list of high-growth firms in the Asia Pacific.

In Singapore, it is also listed in Singapore’s top 100 fastest-growing firms.

Called Nature’s Superfoods, it is predominantly an online business, selling everything from quinoa to chia seeds, and exporting them to overseas markets like Cambodia and Hong Kong.

The brand doubled its absolute revenue in 2020, hitting 107.8 per cent in absolute growth despite the realities of a global pandemic.

Nature’s Superfoods also achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.6 per cent with only 19 employees.

Additionally, it raked in US$1.32 million in 2020. However, the business isn’t about the numbers but the desire to bring better, healthier food alternatives to Asia.

“We don’t sell everything under the sun, even though it takes longer,” says Serene Cha, one of Nature’s Superfoods three co-founders. “We’re sticking to our mission: to deliver clean superfoods.”

A Chance Encounter In Peru

The beginnings of Nature’s Superfoods sprouted in Peru, where Serene and her co-founders, Julian Lee and Quek Ai Lay, travelled to in the early 2000s.

Between 2003 and 2009, the trio who was in their late 20s then, worked at international schools on the weekdays and volunteered at NGOs on the weekends, teaching English to underprivileged youth in shantytowns.

In 2005, they launched a translation service named Actspand after they realised freelance translation jobs were one of the most “portable industries,” relying on their translation jobs as a form of basic income.

actspand founders Serene Chia, Julian Lee, Quek Ai Lay
Left to right: Serene Cha, Julian Lee, Quek Ai Lay / Image Credit: Nature’s Superfoods

It was while they were visiting a girls’ home that the trio were first introduced to Peruvian superfoods. They were served quinoa with chicken, and their host explained the benefits of the dish to them.

“Our interest began there … and we started to explore the possibility of bringing Peruvian superfoods to Singapore,” Serene recounts.

The trio returned to Singapore for good in 2009, taking their translation business with them. By then, Actspand was growing steadily and its founders had acquired a list of superfood wholesalers’ contacts in Peru.

It didn’t take long for them to launch a new superfood vertical. By 2011, Nature’s Superfoods was launched and they began importing superfood to Singapore as one of the first to pioneer superfoods in Southeast Asia.

“Clean”, Not “Trendy” Superfood

“Nature’s Superfoods started as a very small business,” says Serene. “We had a slow beginning, with very few products. (Things like) quinoa and chia seeds was still unfamiliar to Singaporeans, even in 2011.”

Despite the slow traction, Nature’s Superfoods refused to import “trendy” superfoods and focused on importing “clean”, albeit relatively unknown superfoods.

That includes everything from yacon root, sacha inchi seeds, to raw cacao.

Superfoods have a variety of health benefits, which range from promoting cardiovascular health, aiding weight loss, and even reversing the effects of ageing.

natures superfood singapore
Image Credit: Influencers – Mini Media

The brand is big on ‘clean’ superfood: products that are organic, plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO, with no preservatives, additives, refined sugars, and a low glycemic index.

The focus on “clean” superfoods meant that Nature’s Superfoods got off to a late start, but the effort taken to educate their customers about the health benefits of their product led to the growth of a small and loyal fanbase.

The key, says Serene, is to cater to the Asian palette. Nature’s Superfoods’ social media and website is populated with recipes that adapt superfoods to Asian tastes.

Customers would call in or walk into their office to buy directly from the brand, despite Nature’s Superfoods being entirely web-based, with no retail outlet.

“A brand takes time to build for a niche market,” Serene explains.”It takes time for people to get acquainted with superfood.”

Early Movers On RedMart

Despite the late start, Nature’s Superfood’s growth began accelerating exponentially by 2015.

Serene estimates that revenue jumped by 25 to 50 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

The secret to this success is Nature Superfood’s expansion into e-commerce platforms. To date, e-commerce direct-to-consumer sales account for approximately 50 per cent of Nature Superfood’s total revenue.

Nature’s Superfoods greatest e-commerce champion is RedMart. While Nature’s Superfoods is available on Shopee and Qoo10, RedMart remains the largest source of revenue for the business’s e-commerce sales.

redmart delivery
Image Credit: Nature’s Superfoods

The e-superfood business joined Red Mart between 2013 and 2014 as one of the platform’s first-movers, prior to its acquisition by e-commerce giant Lazada in 2016.

The shift to e-commerce paid off. Currently, RedMart has over 173,000 products available on the platform, and attracts over 65 million active consumers across six different markets via Lazada

In addition, Southeast Asia’s online grocery market is expected to be worth US$309 billion by 2021, a growth set to accelerate with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The online-based nature of Nature’s Superfoods also meant that it was one of the few businesses to profit off the circuit breaker.

Serene estimates revenue grew by at least four times, mirroring Lazada’s reports that RedMart’s daily active uses increased 11 times during the lockdown.

Since the 2015 burst in growth, Nature’s Superfoods has diversified its revenue channels, selling to major supermarkets like FairPrice, specialty shops, healthcare pharmacies and restaurants.

The brand is also exporting its product to overseas markets, such as Cambodia and Hong Kong.

The Right Place, The Right Time

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to implement healthy eating habits in their lifestyle, driving the growth of the superfood industry worldwide.

The Asia Pacific is expected to see the highest growth rates within the superfoods industry, with a CAGR of 7.4 per cent between 2020 to 2027.

nature's superfoods
Image Credit: Nature’s Superfoods

According to a survey by Ingredion, 80 per cent of consumers in the region are concerned about the long-term impact of artificial ingredients on their health, and 70 per cent are fully aware of the composition of their food.

Currently, the superfoods market remains highly fragmented, dominated by regional and small players like Nature’s Superfoods.

The goal, says Serene, is to make superfoods accessible to everyone — not just consumers with abundant disposable income.

“We have a passion for superfoods, not just for growing a trendy business,” Serene surmises. “We believe strongly in superfoods’ benefits for long term health, and want to communicate that in all possible ways to our customers.”

Featured Image Credit: Nature’s Superfoods

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