Thirty-six year old Juhi Dang had to resort to making her own dairy alternative last year after she got fed up with the bad options sold at supermarkets. She has been opting for dairy-free options since young as she is lactose intolerant.
“There are many brands but they all have one thing in common – they are all nutrient-low and stabilizer-heavy. They contain 95-98 per cent water, are laced with additives, and either taste bad or have no taste at all,” said Juhi, founder and CEO of dairy alternative brand mohjo.
Juhi also noted that the dairy alternatives are far from clean and do not provide the nutrition that people need.
Sick of the lack of good options in the market, the former consumer and innovation product manager at a global firm decided to conduct more research for answers. She then discovered the lucrative US$23 billion dollar alternative milk industry.
Juhi also found out another fact that made her compelled to dive head in to start an alternative milk business: It was that three in four Singaporeans are lactose intolerant.
Mohjo was set up in January this year and fast forward to today, it seems her decision was a good one. In just a few weeks since its online launch in July, the business has caught the eye of notable venture capitalists.
Last month, mohjo raised an undisclosed amount in a seed round led by East Ventures. K3 Ventures, iSeed Southeast Asia, and several angel investors also participated in the round, indicating the potential of a business that targets a multi-billion dollar market.
The business has grown to a small team of five in just eight months, and Juhi is currently looking for talented individuals to join and grow the business.
Developed her own recipe
It all started late last year when Juhi decided to develop her own non-dairy milk and experimented with creating her own recipe.
“I worked on research and product development on mohjo late last year before I formed the company. We launched in mid-July 2021 as a delivery-only service.”
Juhi wanted to create a product that is better than the dairy-free options in the market. “Most commercially available plant-milks contain two to five per cent nuts like almonds, and the rest is water and additives. If you think about this for a minute, that’s only four almonds in a glass of beverage!”
Those options are filled with thickening agents that have “absolutely no nutritional value,” said Juhi. Some even contain artificial sweeteners and taste enhancers.
Armed with a recipe and research to back the gap for nutritious plant-based dairy alternatives in the market, Juhi founded mohjo in January this year.
For the first half of 2021, Juhi worked on setting up an SFA-approved facility, creating a website, licensing, and buying equipment. She also worked with food scientists to fine tune the flavours. The business’ online e-commerce site was launched in July.
Billion-dollar dairy alternatives market
The vegan quoted data from research firm Grand View Research, noting that the global dairy alternatives market is valued at US$23 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach US$53 billion by 2028.
The dairy alternatives market is set to expand at 12.5 per cent annually to 2028 and in Asia-Pacific, it dominates the share at 44 per cent. The research showed that the rise in demand for plant-based alternatives and changing consumer diets utilising milk alternatives are driving the demand for dairy alternatives.
“It was evident from my research that there is a strong need for clean-label products not just in the plant-based food space but in the food industry as a whole,” the founder said.
Juhi claimed that about 75 per cent of Singaporeans are lactose intolerant and Asians, in general, are more predisposed to lactose intolerance.
“The market for dairy‐alternatives is booming not only because of rising lactose intolerance, but also increasing focus on healthier choices made by consumers, rising number of flexitarians, and increasing ethical and environmental concerns of consuming dairy.”
She also noted that the pandemic has really shifted people’s mindsets about their health from reactive to proactive.
“Consumers are aware and concerned about what goes on and inside their bodies; awareness about the benefits of good lifestyle habits has gone up. Consumers wish to consume products that are free of additives and made from whole clean ingredients.”
The almonds are the “mohjo”
Juhi uses 10 times more almonds to create mohjo’s milk alternatives, compared to commercial brands.
“Mohjo’s almond milk is extremely nutritious since the nutrition is coming from the almonds. One serving of our unsweetened almond milk has as much protein as an egg,” she said.
There are currently three versions of mohjo dairy-free drinks – unsweetened almond milk, sweetened almond milk, and pure cacao almond milk.
The sweetened version does not contain any artificial sugars, but instead is sweetened with Iranian dates. Other ingredients in a bottle of mohjo include Himalayan salt and filtered water.
Juhi swears by not using any additives, emulsifiers, or refined sugars to make the products.
The Cacao option according to Juhi, is a hit among kids and adults alike.
Almonds are a great plant-based source of nutrition. The almond milk is free of cholesterol and lactose. Mohjo is packed with 25 per cent almonds, compared with two to three per cent in commercial brands, and hence mohjo almond milk is low carb, high protein, and contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.Juhi Dang, founder and CEO of mohjo
A drawback of the drinks, however, is that they’re not suitable for someone who is allergic to almonds.
The unsweetened mohjo goes well as a substitute for milk while cooking and baking, while the sweetened version can be used for breakfast with cereals.
But the beverages are preservatives free, so the drinks can only be kept for four to six days refrigerated.
“We make it right here in Singapore, every day, bright and early at our Singapore Food Authority approved facility,” Juhi said.
Seed funding raised in August, eyes expansion
Last month, Mohjo raised an undisclosed amount in a seed round led by East Ventures. Participants in the funding round include K3 Ventures, iSeed Southeast Asia, and some angel investors.
The investment will be used to build capacity, launch more products, strengthen the team, and increase market penetration.
Mohjo is working towards launching a pick-up option very soon followed by its foray into retail. “The plan for now is to keep our heads down and grow within Singapore before we venture out to other markets.”
“We have gotten some amazing responses from our products, there’s a lot of repeat customers and word of mouth. We look forward to continuing solving the needs of our customers and creating products they want,” said Juhi.
“Almond milk and almond-milk based beverages are our first line of products. Our products are ‘Made in Singapore’ in a company-owned facility with high-quality ingredients, and are free from stabilisers or any other chemical ingredients,” said Juhi.
The startup has plans to expand its product line and offer other dairy alternatives in the near term. But it also stressed to be “100 per cent clean and additive-free” for all future product launches.
“We’ve made curries, pancakes, and yummy bread using mohjo unsweetened. Recently someone shared a great recipe for carbonara pasta using unsweetened mohjo. So feel free to experiment.”
Featured Image Credit: mohjo