The alcoholic desserts industry in Malaysia has been growing in recent years.
One would think that entering the market with alcoholic cookies may not be a very new concept then, but Lois disagrees.
“Though it’s very common to find alcoholic desserts in F&B outlets in Malaysia, most ingredients being used are limited. The most common ones are Baileys, Kahlua, rum, and brandy,” she said.
“And the applications are also limited, such as mixing them into whipped cream, soaking the cake in liqueur syrup, or filling chocolate with alcoholic centers. I wanted to challenge myself to do something beyond expectation.”
According to her, the cocktail culture isn’t very strong in Southeast Asia. Not many who drink are actually familiar with different common ingredients used in mixology like apéritif, vermouth, bitters, and liquor.
“A lot of the time I find it difficult to explain to friends what a particular cocktail tastes like. So I wanted to replicate a cocktail’s flavour in a different way that allows both drinkers and non-drinkers to enjoy mixology in a different format,” she said.
So, she started Chew My Booze as a side business on the Christmas of 2018 to sell her homemade alcoholic cookies.
Boozed Up Cookies
Balancing her full-time job in regional customer experience at a multinational corporation (MNC), she would bake after work and operate full-gear during weekends.
Lois herself is from Hong Kong, but has been working in Malaysia for the past 4 years.
Infusing alcoholic drinks into butter cookies was the first product she tried her hand at.
It was inspired by a famous cookie brand back in Hong Kong called Jenny’s Bakery.
“I also wanted my product to have a longer shelf-life, be more presentable, and available to ship to other locations for better production planning.”
“I also wanted to charge them at higher price points with better packaging. So butter cookies seemed to be the most feasible option,” she said.
She started testing out the reception of the cookies by first offering them to people within her social circle.
Via word-of-mouth, it soon gained traction and she had customers ordering the cookies on Instagram and Kravve.co.
That gave her confidence to expand her product range too.
“I tried to replicate flavours that are unusual for normal butter cookies, such as bitter orange for Negroni, or minty-lime for Mojito,” she said.
Lois offers 4 different kinds of alcoholic cookies on Kravve, including Mojito Lime Cookies and Rum Raisin & Cranberry Cookies.
You Won’t Get Drunk Off Her Cookies
Despite enjoying the flavours of the cocktail-inspired treats, customers complained that they weren’t able to taste any booze in the product, which was an expectation she had to manage.
“A lot of customers expect to taste the booziness in the cookie, which is impossible because the alcohol content will evaporate after baking,” she said.
The point of the cookies are to be recreations of certain cocktails and not to get people drunk.
Lois guarantees that she actually pours a few shots into her cookie batter, so you can get a taste of the liquor.
We were curious about her strategy of pricing her cookies, as a bottle of liqueur like Baileys can cost an average of RM140, while her cookies are sold for RM30 for a box of 18.
She told Vulcan Post that cost control for her business is of utmost importance, and that she does this without compromising on the quality of ingredients used.
But that brings up a different set of challenges.
“The number one rule to have a side business is that it cannot be operating with a loss. But being a ‘one-man band’ in a home bakery also means there is a limitation in the production capacity,” she said.
To control large orders, customers would have to pre-order her cookies, so that she’s able to plan out the production.
She also turns away large volume orders with quantities as big as wedding door gifts.
“Even though the business is profitable, I am not making big bucks. The profit that I have made is being reinvested in getting new equipment or in research and development.”
Rum brownies and rum balls make up some of Chew My Booze’s new product range.
“They have received positive feedback from customers. I am trying to diversify the product range but keep the production process as efficient as possible,” she said.
It’s Small, But A Big Accomplishment For A Solopreneur
Lois told us that the defining moment that encouraged her to keep running Chew My Booze was when she was able to churn out roughly 100 gift cookie boxes during 2019’s Chinese New Year.
She was also delighted to be featured on ThirstMag.com, an online drinks portal which aims to improve the drinking culture in Malaysia.
“I treated Chew My booze my personal entrepreneurial project. Even though it’s a tiny business, from this I gained first hand experience of product management, sourcing, sales and marketing, production planning, design, and branding. It’s great learning that I can apply to my full-time job too,” she said.
As for her future plans in growing the business, she’s experimenting with new recipes, a new product range, as well as experimenting with more seasonal products and packaging.
I do hope to properly establish this business as a registered company, and extend the business to Hong Kong and let my family run that part of the business. One of my dreams would be to collaborate with liquor brands and F&B outlets for cocktail cookies and other alcoholic creations.Lois Lau, Founder and baker of Chew My Booze
Featured Image Credit: Lois Lau, founder and baker of Chew My Booze