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Plant co. expands to serve coffee as it explores new grounds in M’sia (double pun intended)

The Vulcan Post team is full of serial plant killers. We’re just not equipped to keep a green, O2-producing, immobile living thing alive. However, we were gifted indoor plants in a soilless medium over a year ago, and their lifespans have surpassed our expectations.

They can even go over a week without watering (though they do lose a few leaves). So what’s changed?

The plants are housed in Pafcal “soil”. It’s essentially a sponge-like material that acts as a soil replacement, able to maintain moisture for those who forget to water their indoor plants.

Pafcal, the soilless tech keeping our office plants alive / Image Credit: Midorie

This medium is created by Midorie, a Japanese company that came to Malaysia in 2017. Since then, Midorie Malaysia has grown to become more than just a retail and online store for plants.

Today it runs its own café (Mori Kohi), vegetable farm (Vegetori), plant gallery (Midorie Gallery), and event space (Supēsu).

A tropical climate breeds greenery

The company was started out of biotech research by Toyota in 1987, and Suntory, a beverage conglomerate, who were trying their hand in the green business in 2008. The two merged and became a joint venture in 2012, birthing Midorie.

When expanding to SEA, Midorie chose to set up its head office in Malaysia because of its geographical location that’s not affected by typhoons or severe floods. Thus, making it suitable for agricultural development all year round.

Some of the plants found at the Midorie Gallery / Image Credit: Midorie

Malaysia also ranks third or fourth in terms of greening (making an area greener by planting trees or other vegetation) in the SEA region, and has plenty of room for development.

That’s according to the Managing Director of Midorie Malaysia, Desmond Seok, who graduated from Japan, hoping to bring high-tech Japanese products into the Malaysian market.

“The Malaysian government encourages the people of environmental protection and energy saving in policies. Midorie hopes to make contributions in this regard and respond to national policies,” Desmond added.

Sprouting at a good speed

On top of selling innovations that simplify plant care for newbies, Midorie also sells indoor plants via its online and offline stores. The company provides landscaping services, plant wall installations, and sells self-watering pots too.

Midorie Malaysia focuses more on its retail business as compared to its branches in other countries that pay more attention to greening projects. 

Did you know: Greening projects refers to making products or developing technologies that are primarily aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions or supporting the use of clean energy.

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But getting Midorie Malaysia off the ground was no easy feat. During its initial years, the team participated non-stop in exhibitions and events, showcasing the Pafcal technology, along with how it’s used and cared for. 

Exhibitions were conducted to get the word out about Midorie’s solutions / Image Credit: Midorie

In 2018, Midorie collaborated with The Owls Cafe to open a Midorie x The Owls Cafe in MyTOWN Shopping Centre. The space allowed patrons who came for a drink to also view Midorie’s products, which Desmond reported greatly improved the brand’s image.

Because raising environmental awareness is the company’s core value, Midorie launched its “1 Person 1 Plant” event in 2019. It gained the favour of several malls in KL, which provided the company with support and helped Midorie achieve notable results. 

Then came the 2020 pandemic which sparked new hobbies in Malaysians who were stuck in lockdown.  Midorie experienced a surplus in orders for its gardening products, plants, and Pafcal from those venturing into the gardening hobby. 

“We were actually selling faster than we could restock,” Desmond told Vulcan Post. 

Expanding to build a paradise

Since the pandemic, Malaysians have also taken an interest in healthy eating and improving their wellbeing. Desmond took notice of this trend too, and he idealised building a green coffee shop with a design style that favours greening and gardening.

Collaborating with a restaurateur friend who also owns a vegetable farm, Desmond rented a bungalow in KL that he calls the “Midorie Paradise” to kick off the whole business. 

Building the “Midorie Paradise” / Image Credit: Midorie

With about RM3 million capital for site renovations and furnishings, the Midorie Paradise houses 5 concepts:

  • Mori Kohi – a café serving Japanese-style meals;
  • Bar Moku – a casual cocktail bar with a garden;
  • Vegetory – a vertical vegetable farm; 
  • Midorie Gallery – its plant retail gallery; 
  • Supēsu – a small event space for up to 50 pax.

“Under the premise, there is a chance for change. Midorie uses a different way to let customers who come to Mori Kohi continue to pay attention to the charm of Midorie. After tasting the food, go shopping in [the gallery], buy some healthy ingredients, and learn more about Midorie’s Pafcal cultivation.”

To add, workshops and interest classes such as flower arrangements, tea ceremonies, or music events are held in the event space in order to promote cultural exchanges in the community.

Eyes on the F&B brand for now

Since launching in 2021, Mori Kohi’s performance has been 3 times higher than expected, though Desmond declined to disclose specific figures. 

“This is very motivating as Mori Kohi has also driven the performance for Midorie Gallery, giving the team a very good start,” he stated. Desmond described that the same was reflected through Midorie’s collaboration with The Owls Cafe, which indirectly triggered the launch of Mori Kohi.

Much like Midorie x The Owls Cafe, good coffee is at the fore of what Mori Kohi does, with a variety of beverages made from espresso, specialty siphon coffee, and artisan matcha. After all, Mori Kohi can be loosely translated to “coffee in the forest”.

Mori Kohi’s team / Image Credit: Midorie

Hence, it can be said that a large factor driving Midorie’s retail growth is its F&B verticals. This is likely because customers get the opportunity to experience its plant products in-store and use them in aesthetic photos for the ‘Gram before making a purchase themselves.

Desmond believes that this could be the case because the greening business alone still needs time to grow in Malaysia. “But without Midorie, there would not be [these] 2 restaurants [providing] significant business contributions,” he highlighted. 

It serves Western-inspired Japanese cuisine / Image Credit: Midorie

Realising the potential of its F&B ventures, Desmond shared that Midorie Malaysia will prioritise the growth of Mori Kohi post-pandemic. Of course, it will still maintain its retail and online businesses while appropriately adjusting employee positions, and improving KPIs in various departments. 

With Midorie’s rapid expansion into different verticals thus far, there’s no telling where this plant company will spread its roots to next, but there’s no doubt the element of greenery will be a constant.

  • Learn more about Midorie Malaysia here.
  • Read other plant related articles we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Midorie Malaysia

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

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