Lee Huey Ping was never a big fan of avocados. In fact, she thought the fruit was luxurious and finicky—not something she’d buy on a regular basis. Her husband, Kah Wai, had never even tried it before.
But during a trip to Da Lat, Vietnam, the couple’s lives would be changed.
Known as Kem Bo, the dessert is essentially an avocado mousse ice cream. In Ping’s words, it’s also known as the “most mind-blowing avocado dessert”.
After returning to Malaysia, the couple still could not get the dessert out of their mind. They would even talk about the possibility of starting their own avocado-based F&B chain locally.
Their daydreams turned into a reality during the pandemic. In September 2020, the two decided to quit their full-time corporate careers. Ping was a financial analyst while Kah Wai was in the banking industry.
“Despite the huge risk with the affected economy, we decided to go with it and stick with our gut feeling,” Ping shared. “We just had a hunch that there is a huge marketable potential coupled with the change in trends of consumption given the pandemic.”
Sowing the seeds for the startup
Paying homage to their favourite avocado dessert, the couple decided to name their business Bo The Avocado. Plus, it seemed to be a catchy name and made for a good mascot.
In fact, the brand’s avocado mascot is actually made up of a “b” and an “o”. Can you spot it?
According to Ping, Bo The Avocado started with a wide range of avocado smoothies from the get-go. There was the typical original Avo Milk smoothie as well as more unique flavours such as the Avo Mint Dark Choc.
In early 2021, the couple welcomed a third business partner to the equation. Safwan, a high school friend of Ping and Kah Wai, now handles operations for all the outlets.
“Fun fact, all three of us are from Melaka and went to the same high school and university!” Ping added.
The three Melakans aimed to provide a unique experience and introduce the idea of avocado consumption in various ways. They wanted to portray Bo The Avocado as the “purveyor of all things avocado”.
Aligning with this, the brand not only produces avocado beverages but all sorts of dishes. There’s the Avo Lime Cheesecake, the Mac & Bo (mac & cheese with avocado puree), avocado fries, and a variety of of avocado toasts.
“Our focus is mainly on creativity, flexibility, progression, and improvisation to create the best value for our customer which we believe that sets us apart from the competition,” Ping said.
A ripe market for competition
If you’re a fan of avocado drinks, you’ll know that Bo The Avocado isn’t the first avocado-based F&B brand in Malaysia. For instance, there’s Avocadian, which was launched in 2017.
Avocadian also has a variety of avocado beverages, from matcha to chocolate-flavoured ones. But the classic one is the Original AvoShake, which is the bestseller according to the brand’s BeepIt page. At RM13.90, it’s slightly more expensive compared to Bo The Avocado’s RM11.90 Avo Milk.
From its BeepIt page, Avocadian seems to use avocados from the US, while Bo The Avocado gets its supply from down south.
“There are a few avocado origins available in Malaysia, namely Australia, Mexico, US, Kenya, and the Philippines,” Ping explained. “Our avocados are from Australia at the moment, but we have previously sourced from Mexico and the US as well.”
Due to sanctions in the US, however, Ping said Mexico and US avocados have increased in price by 200%. Thus, Bo The Avocado has decided to use Australian Hass avocados, which supposedly have a creamy, buttery taste and a longer shelf life compared to avocados from Kenya and the Philippines.
Since the brand deals with produce, quality control can be a pretty tricky thing.
“As avocados are such tricky and finicky fruits in nature, we ripen them in-house naturally at our headquarters and distribute [them] to the outlets,” Ping explained. “We check on the avocados every single day to ensure we store and categorise them properly at each stage of their ripening process.”
Happily avo after?
While avocados are more commonplace in Malaysia now compared to around a decade ago, it’s still somewhat of an acquired taste.
To curb this challenge, Bo The Avocado aims to introduce non-avocado products such as coffee, matcha, mocktails, juices, and other types of smoothies on the menu.
“However, we will maintain avocados as our core product and we will continue to curate more upcoming food and desserts now that are more unique.”
The brand’s new recipes typically come from “crazy ideas” by the team. Ping oversees the whole R&D and product curation process, though she said anyone in the team can try to come up with their own ideas.
Perhaps the creativity that the founders have instilled in the brand plays a part in the growth of Bo The Avocado. In two years, the F&B brand has opened five outlets across Klang Valley.
“This achievement alone has only led us to believe that we are certainly moving in the right direction despite only starting this brand for a short period of time,” Ping shared.
Down the road, the team hopes to continue expanding, either domestically or internationally, but erring on the side of caution. Ping also mentioned that the brand is open to offers of licensing.
On top of this, the founder also gave us some updates—Bo The Avocado is set to open a couple of new outlets soon, namely in 1Utama Shopping Mall and IOI City Mall.
“Our main goal is to create a new bubble, a new healthier indulgence trend which can complement the other well-established trends such as milk tea, coffee, and juices,” Ping concluded.
There’s still a long way to go before avocado drinks can reach the level of those other beverages. But considering Bo The Avocado’s growing presence in the Klang Valley, it seems like the brand might just be one of the driving forces for the fruit’s popularity in Malaysia.
Featured Image Credit: Bo The Avocado