Artisanal foods sound exclusive, or atas, as we say, which directly translates as “above”.
“It gives the impression that artisanal food is for wannabes, but the simple truth is that the artisan food movement is all about going back to basics,” suggested Jasmine, the founder of an artisanal nut butter business, The Good Fat Company (TGFC). “It’s about getting to know how your food is made, its quality, as well as the freshness of ingredients used.”
Unlike most startups, TGFC wasn’t born out of a passion for nut butters, or nuts for that matter. A year ago, Jasmine hit a wall with her previous venture during the pandemic and was cornered in a situation most business owners have since faced—to let her staff go.
Taking One For The Team
Last year was a tough one for many, and with ever-changing SOPs and the on-again, off-again MCOs, it’s as if the light at the end of the tunnel is fusing out.
“My previous venture came to a grinding halt, I was devastated as we had put in so much to build it up,” Jasmine informed Vulcan Post. One positive take away from that experience though, was the opportunity to work with a close-knit team who stood by her through troubled waters, pay cuts and all.
The company was already at the end of the road and Jasmine was flustered trying to figure out how to break the news to her employees. After plenty of tears, Jasmine’s husband said to her, “No point crying over spilt milk, you either think of something to do so you can keep your guys, or face them and tell them they’re out of a job.”
Knowing she’d won the lottery with her team, she just couldn’t let them go. It also didn’t matter what business they were in together, as long as they weren’t disbanded.
This led to her brainstorming what market trends and customer needs were out there, wondering what worthwhile venture she could build with her team from ground zero. At 3AM one night, the realisation hit her: the answer was quality food.
Growing From The Ground Up
Most of what Malaysians buy is imported, which means food is preserved and has very little nutrients by the time it gets to our table. This is why the idea of creating nut butters sprang to Jasmine’s mind immediately. “Having travelled extensively pre-pandemic, we would enjoy all the varieties like almond, hazelnut, pecan, and the list goes on… but at home all my kids can find is peanut butter. It was my lightbulb moment!”
Within 48 hours, Jasmine drafted her business plan and presented it to the team who were all in. “I was really lucky, one of my staff who handled operations had a culinary background so he understood the technical aspect of food and that made it easier,” she said.
Without skipping a beat, they got to work and tested out various recipes until they were satisfied with their own version of it.
To produce good quality nut butters, it’s important that a food processor isn’t used as heat from the machine would destroy the nuts’ nutrients. It’s also a method shared by the healthy snack company we’ve previously written about, Nourish and Nibbs. With stringent demands, the biggest investment for TGFC’s capital was for purchasing machinery like nut mills and roasters.
Supported by her husband, Jasmine used up their savings to fund her new venture. The couple was confident that if they lost the money, it would be considered a learning cost; if TGFC grew and succeeded as intended, then her mission would be accomplished.
Aside from providing capital for the business, Jasmine credits a large portion of the investment to the team. At the start, staff were onboarded with partial salaries as Jasmine couldn’t afford to pay them in full. “I’ll always consider their sacrifice for partial salaries as part of the investment when we started this venture,” the entrepreneur gratefully expressed.
A Balancing Act
I’ve tried artisan nut butters from brands like BREAKFIRST by Amy before, and what I’ve always wondered was whether it was safe to consume the oil layer that floated to the top. It’s something you’ve probably seen inside Nutella jars too.
And that was TGFC’s first major challenge: production. Because the nut butters don’t contain preservatives, the oil separation formed in an unopened jar, though edible, tends to scare customers away. Jasmine explained that the reason this happens is due to nut butters having high contents of fat, which acts as a natural preservative so they don’t go bad quickly. Once a jar is opened, it should be finished within 90 days.
Hence, Jasmine recommends against her customers buying TGFC’s products in bulk. “While it would be good for business, we would rather that our customers purchase what they need and consume it before they purchase the second jar,” she told us humbly.
This was where TGFC’s team had to find the balance in making appropriate quantities by batch, to maintain the nut butter’s quality and lifespan.
“There were months where we oversold and there were months where our families had to eat a lot of nut butters,” Jasmine explained. Today, the team has found a steady stream of customers and has a better idea of producing according to demands from consumers’ consumption cycles.
Catering To The Health-Conscious
Those customers currently comprise health-conscious individuals who also care about the environment by reducing their meat consumption for protein. Jasmine shared that she was actually surprised with the age group of millennials purchasing her products, assuming that TGFC’s customer base would come from baby boomers instead.
Since launching in October 2020, TGFC has sold over 8,000 jars and already has 10 nut butter variants. Each jar costs between RM29.90-RM65.90 each (depending on the type), and can be bought from TGFC’s website, or their stockists like Poptron, KitaKita, Qra, and Fittle Sense.
We are seven months old at the end of April, and we are grateful that our sales have been on a steady climb month-by-month. This is a more important indicator to me than profits because it means that we are delivering more and more of our nut butters to the people. I am less concerned about profits at this juncture as we are more focused on building our brand.Jasmine Mohan, founder and CEO of The Good Fat Company.
Compared to her previous venture that’s currently being restructured, Jasmine’s confident that the lessons learnt from it will help her team fare better the second time around.
- You can learn more about The Good Fat Company here.
- You can read other F&B articles that we’ve written here.
Featured Image Credit: Jasmine Mohan, founder and CEO of The Good Fat Company