Coming across the pineapple business, Brotani Ventures (Brotani) on Instagram, I figured it was trying to appeal to a younger segment of Malaysians from its vibrant and contemporary branding.
“Contemporary and vibrance are where it’s at, because we want to make the idea of healthy eating fun,” its team told Vulcan Post.
But healthy eating is not all that Brotani is tackling, as it also aims to contribute to one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through sustainable farming methods.
Turning produce into products
Brotani is the brainchild of high schoolmates, Aizat, Hakim, Izz, and Burhan who are promoting the benefits of MD2 pineapples. The MD2 breed is said to be high in Vitamin C, amongst other kinds of nutrients.
To their advantage, these pineapples are of a breed that’s easy to plant and can produce more yield compared to regular pineapples. This is because they’re naturally immune to diseases and bear twice the amount of suckers compared to other pineapple breeds.
Dictionary time: Suckers or pups are little plantlets that grow between the leaves of the mature pineapple. When they’re taken off, more pineapples will grow out of them.Tropical Permaculture
MD2 pineapples don’t require an irrigation system either and can rely solely on rainwater as their water source. An irrigation system is where crops are watered artificially via artificial canals, ditches, etc.
Sustainable farming practices in their business are implemented by ensuring food waste is eliminated as much as possible. They’re able to do so by fully optimising the usage of the fruit, converting it into other forms of products like their cold-pressed juices, Piña Limas.
If pineapples are over-ripened and cannot be used in a product, they’re fed to the team’s kampung chickens which are sold under a different brand named Boys & Chicks.
The startup’s product range consists of MD2 pineapples sold as whole fruits that cost between RM8-RM15 depending on their weight, and sliced pineapples (for consumers’ convenience) at RM10. Cold-pressed juices, which happen to be Brotani’s bestseller, cost RM14.
Navigating travel restrictions
While the idea of starting a pineapple business kicked off in July 2020, Brotani was only launched in February 2021. It got its beginnings as a mere pineapple supplier to customers, branded with a farm-to-table concept.
“One of the ways we collected the orders was through agents in offices. But when the MCO 2.0 happened, this inevitably disrupted our distribution there as most offices had to operate nearly fully from home,” the team shared.
From this hiccup, the Brotani team figured that they could diversify by supplying their products in stores, as pineapples fall under the necessities which could be sold through essential services. Thus, on top of selling the pineapples online, Brotani also distributes to over 20 local independent grocers including OlaMart, d’Buah, Olive Grocer, and Durianba.
Its team has reported an average monthly sales of around 6 tonnes of pineapples, and they now have a farm in Bukit Cerakah.
Within the next 2 years, Brotani aims to incorporate sustainable practices in its operations of up to at least 60%, contributing to one of the United Nations’ SDGs.
The reason their goal is set at 60% first is that they currently lack access to affordable sustainable practices like farming methods, commercial packaging, and waste management.
While it may hike up the cost of their products, perhaps the team could look into more sustainable packaging by switching their juice bottles from plastic to glass. By doing so, they could start an initiative of recollecting these empty bottles and providing discounts/rebates to customers upon their next purchase.
However, as the company is still in its infancy and trying to penetrate the market, it suggests that keeping costs low for end-users can help build a brand presence. Once they’ve gained confidence from customers in the quality of its products, loyal ones may be more willing to pay higher prices for more sustainable packaging as well.
“As small-time players, we would have to build towards that bit-by-bit. In doing so, we would inadvertently cross through some checkpoints like being sold in commercial supermarkets and expanding the business overseas,” Brotani’s team shared hopefully.
The pineapple juice market is by no means a blue ocean; it’s an extremely popular market full of different players. It’s no surprise because Malaysia is abundant with pineapples, to the point where we’ve come up with more sustainable and creative ways to handle the waste such as turning pineapple leaves into drones.
At the same time, social enterprises have jumped on the pineapple market as a way to benefit the less privileged in Malaysia through entrepreneurship programmes, signalling how easy it is to penetrate the market with the fruit’s products.
With COVID-19 and rising concerns about maintaining one’s health, pineapple juice has also become a popular healthy drink choice, with MarketResearch showing a hopeful growth projection for the juice market.
This points to increased consumption of the juice overall, so with proper marketing on the right channels, Brotani won’t find it hard to acquire more customers. Its heavy leverage on Instagram as a way to reach its crowd and its matching branding to appeal to the younger health-conscious market are already a good start.
Featured Image Credit: The team at Brotani Ventures