Having come from a family that loves being in the kitchen, sisters Ryea and Lekha’s fondest memories often involve food in some shape or form.
“Our parents have always placed importance on using whole foods and the importance of homecooked meals,” shared Ryea.
So, when they had their own children, they knew they wanted to nourish them with organic foods that were free from artificial flavours and preservatives.
This became a necessity because Ryea’s son was asthmatic at that time, and her daughter suffered from eczema.
Although organic goods such as vegetables, fruits, cereals, and baby food were readily available, Ryea and Lekha realised it was difficult to find the average pre-sliced bread that was healthy.
So, they delved into baking organic bread themselves, conducting weekend projects with their children, an activity that also kept the young ones occupied.
This experience eventually served as the foundation for Fresco Grano Organic Bakery & Store (Fresco Grano) in 2015, with a mission to provide others with access to affordable baked organic goods.
The team started out by producing and selling wheat bread, and slowly ventured into providing gluten-free choices as they noticed a high demand for it.
Within time, Fresco Grano moved into producing other healthy breakfast and snack options such as muffins, granola, and cookies.
A speciality bakery that responds to customer needs
Prior to starting Fresco Grano, Ryea worked as an accountant, having gathered experience in both multinational and medium-sized companies for approximately 10 years.
Ryea now handles Fresco Grano on a full-time basis, bringing all her skills and experiences from her years in professional accounting to the business.
Hence, Ryea is in charge of the financial and operational side of things, while Lekha manages their social media platforms, website, and customer relations.
“Some of the design work, marketing as well as other miscellaneous jobs that are ad-hoc in nature are outsourced,” explained Ryea.
All of the baking and packing takes place in their bakery at Sungai Buloh, with operations manned by a small but tight-knit team of seven internal staff, consisting of three bakers and two delivery personnel, aside from Ryea and Lekha themselves.
Initially, a lot of research went into developing gluten-free recipes. The team also wanted to create recipes that could be nut-free or vegan-friendly when necessary.
“Some customers even requested sugar-free options, so we worked on creating products that could respond to those needs, hence, our reputation as a speciality bakery was born,” shared Ryea.
During the early stages of Fresco Grano, the flavour combinations produced derived from the likings of families and friends.
As the team progressed and started gaining more of a customer base, they then started focusing on customer tastes and preferences.
A preferred method of theirs to acquire feedback is through creating polls on social media where they ask their followers to choose between two flavours. The highest vote would be what Fresco Grano eventually formulates an initial recipe for.
“It can take as short as a couple of weeks to as long as a couple of months to finally release the flavour to our customers, as we have to make sure the recipe works as well as researching its shelf life and storage options,” said Ryea.
Competition with the big brands
One of the biggest challenges faced by Fresco Grano was entering a market that had big brands dominating it, ones that were already household names.
“The main subject matter was that most people were so used to eating bread that had a certain taste and texture, which was usually softer and lighter than our bread,” added Ryea.
She went on to explain that it was either the very soft commercial bread or the much harder, crusty unsliced loaf at that time.
Hence, the challenge was to come up with something in between, whilst maintaining the recipe to be free from additives and preservatives.
Eventually, the team managed to settle on their current unique Fresco Grano recipe. They even managed to penetrate mainstream grocery stores that were looking for organic and healthy alternatives to be part of their range.
Currently, Fresco Grano’s bread is available from certain Ben’s Independent Grocer, Jaya Grocer, and Village Grocer outlets. They are also available at certain speciality organic shops, and for home delivery.
“We believe the fact that we are available in these stores which are located in all of the main areas of the Klang Valley already assists us in creating brand awareness,” expressed Ryea.
Sticking to the basic principles
Ensuring that they stick to their mission of creating quality baked goods without the use of enhancers, additives, and preservatives is how Ryea and Lekha see Fresco Grano achieving longevity.
Not to mention, keeping strict quality control by continuing to produce in small batches.
Moving forward, the siblings are hoping to take part in more events as they had done pre-pandemic.
These include participating in farmers’ markets, collaborating with fitness and health programmes, and organising fun activities at store locations.
They shared that they would love to conduct or be part of health and wellness workshops too, as cultivating healthy and conscious eating has been their focus since they started Fresco Grano.
The duo is also hoping to make their products available in other states beyond Klang Valley soon.
- Learn more about Fresco Grano here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Fresco Grano