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Harvested manually by hand after young swiftlets leave their nests, bird’s nest is a popular product that contains glycoproteins and amino acids that generally help improve one’s immune system and overall health. 

Considering how bird’s nest also facilitates cell repair due to it being rich in the epidermal growth factor, the consumer base for bird’s nest is extensive, from expecting and new mothers, to customers looking to improve their complexion. 

Justin Chiam, who was expecting his first child in 2018, wanted to pamper his wife with some bird’s nest as a staple consumption throughout her pregnancy. That was when he discovered gaps in the industry.

“I discovered that most of the ready-to-drink bird’s nest products available in the market were opaque with regards to their ingredients, dosage of key ingredients, and sources”, he recalls, emphasising that it was difficult finding bird’s nest products that were transparent.

With an aim to address this problem, he teamed up with his ex-secondary schoolmate and close friend, Stuart Ho, to build a natural superfoods startup called The Purest Co in 2019. 

A “cross-disciplined” approach

Prior to their first business venture together, Justin, who graduated from Business Management at Singapore Management University (SMU), started off with a career in equity research, before he went on to work in several banks and gained experience in understanding the consumer sector. 

In fact, Justin has tested waters when it comes to running a business during his university years where he started an e-commerce company that sold useful products to students while working with Singapore merchants. “It was a great learning experience”, he highlights. 

Stuart, who also graduated from SMU with a Bachelors in Business Management, worked as a risk manager with an oil trading company where he worked at one of the desks for three years. 

When they started The Purest Co, they roped in Sherman Lim as the Chief Marketing Officer, and all three of them made an effort to implement a product development approach that was “cross discipline[d]”, which means leveraging on research and knowledge from various disciplines like traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and Western medicine. 

The Purest Co founders
Stuart Ho, Justin Chiam and Sherman Lim / Image credit: The Purest Co

“We work with many different types of ingredients from all over the world, and get inspiration from the everyday needs of our loved ones as well, which makes our work really interesting”, says Justin. 

For example, they make use of traditional herbs such as American Ginseng, and Wolfberries for their Bird’s Nest line which results in a wide variety in terms of taste and flavour. As for their boosters line, they chose to work with ingredients that are patented, with clinical research by biotech companies backing its efficacy. 

On top of having a diverse range of quality superfood products, The Purest Co offers subscription services where products are priced much more affordably that cater to consumer’s specific needs.

We want the process to be as seamless as possible for our customers to have their favourite products available when they need it. Having a subscription service where they can simply subscribe and forget about it, and having their supply of product arrive just as they run out is key to helping them achieve their goals.

– Justin Chiam, CEO of The Purest Co

Upholding transparency and quality

Stuart acknowledges that The Purest Co may not have the long history and reputation other traditional bird’s nest companies in Singapore might have, but he believes that their commitment to transparency and quality is ultimately what differentiates them and wins the hearts of their consumers. 

Unlike most brands in the market, we are upfront about the exact grammage of our key ingredients such as bird’s nest in our bird’s nest line, and we steer clear of using ingredients such as white fungus or seaweed that mimic the texture of bird’s nest in our products.

We want the customer to always know that they are getting pure, high-quality bird’s nest in every spoonful.

– Stuart Ho, COO of The Purest Co
The Purest Co bird's nest
The Purest Co’s bird’s nest / Image credit: The Purest Co

When asked how they ensure The Purest Co doesn’t make a loss by stating the exact grammage of bird’s nest in their products, Justin concedes that it has not been easy. 

This is because the act of being transparent about all ingredients used in the products is considered a departure from the traditional practices of the industry that consumers are used to.

According to Justin, many brands in the market tend to “obfuscate their key ingredient dosage and choose to hide behind their ‘secret formulas’”. He adds that when it comes to bird’s nest specifically, many also use ingredients such as white fungus and seaweed that mimic the texture of genuine bird’s nest.

Justin and Stuart did not want to contribute to unethical product labelling, so they ensure that their bird’s nest product line offers one of the highest amounts of genuine bird’s nest for the price point in the market, although this results in lower margins. 

They are able to create a sustainable model that offers more value to their customers because they operate with a lean team, and retail direct-to-consumer without a middle man for the most part of their business. 

With their consistent effort in being transparent with their customers, Stuart highlights that while it has been challenging to convince customers to give a young company like theirs a shot, he’s happy to say that those who have ended up enjoying their bird’s nest products tremendously became their loyal supporters.

Challenges along the way

Initially, the main challenge they faced in being transparent was finding a supplier good enough to produce the standard of bird’s nest that they required. 

“We needed to find a trusted supplier with enough experience, yet they also had to have enough flexibility to engage in research and development of new flavours with us in a modern way”, Stuart reasons. 

They only started The Purest Co after working closely with a number of suppliers, testing many bottles of bird’s nest and ultimately finding a supplier who understood what they were trying to achieve and who also shared their values.

Stuart Ho The Purest Co
Stuart Ho sourcing for bird’s nest / Image credit: The Purest Co

The next main problem they had to address was dealing with long product development times as they expanded their product range. 

This is mainly because the new formulations at times required exotic superfoods that are not that easy to procure, or have challenging taste profiles that take a long time to work with in order to create a great-tasting formulation. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic came around, Stuart shares that The Purest Co experienced supply shocks to their business when supply lines were disrupted, which affected their inventory management and working capital. 

They soon realised that the pandemic was a double-edged sword, as more people got increasingly concerned about their health during this period of time, which led to a growing interest in natural superfoods.

Winning the hearts of consumers

Having invested S$50,000 in the company, The Purest Co managed to break even within six months, all thanks to their consistent work and effort in providing the best quality bird’s nest for their consumers. 

We have sold over a hundred thousand bottles of bird’s nest. We are focused on developing more products that help people, inspired by the needs of our own loved ones”, shares Stuart. 

This is evident, with them working with food scientists and spending a lot of time in research and development for their new creations that have expanded to much more than just bird’s nest products, such as their Supergreens Antioxidant Juice, Ashwa Lychee Drink, and Collagen Glow Berries.

The Purest Co dietary supplement
The Purest Co’s Ashwa Lychee Drink, Ginseng Turmeric Superjuice and Collagen Glow Berries / Image credit: The Purest Co

The Purest Co has since expanded out of Singapore into a few markets, and also have two fulfilment centres to serve their customers in a timely manner. 

Justin shares that there are plans to further their expansion geographically, adding that they are looking to work with retail distributors overseas as well. 

Staying true to their values and beliefs, Justin and Stuart aim to continue innovating and creating products that improve lives by drawing inspiration from the needs of their own families.

Every now and then we hear people talking about how some of our products have changed their lives, helped them sleep better or helped in their health in one way or another, and it really reminds us why we are doing what we are doing.

– Justin Chiam, CEO of The Purest Co

Featured image credit: The Purest Co

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