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If you find yourself driving along Jalan Bangsar, you might see a signage emblazoned with orange letters spelling “TPL”. Look a little closer, and you’ll notice the tagline underneath that reads “since 1920”.

Indeed, TPL Fresh Meats is a brand with more than 100 years of history, as confirmed by Kamlanathan Arumugam Pillai (Kamal), TPL’s Director of Marketing.

As one of the fourth-generation leaders of the business, he hails from Teluk Intan, just like TPL.

Here’s how the meat business grew from a humble shop in Perak to a chain with outlets across the country.

A century-old brand

As promised by the signage, the story of TPL began in the year 1920, over 100 years ago.

Mr. TS Pichai Pillai and Mr TP Loganathan / Image Credit: TPL Fresh Meats

TPL started off as a butcher shop at a Teluk Intan wet market, established by Kamal’s great-grandfather, TS Pichai Pillai. He himself hailed from Nibong Tebal in Penang, but moved to start his butcher business.

Originally, as a butchery, the shop sourced its meat from farmers, acting as a sort of distributor in the supply chain.  

But when the shop was passed down to his son, TP Loganathan Pillai, they started rearing goats to be sold at the wet market instead of buying from other farmers.

“My grandfather had 10 children,” Kamal shared. “Having a tough time supporting the family singlehandedly, his two sons, who are my uncle and father, decided to join to give him a hand in the business.”

Later, the youngest son also joined the business. With the third generation at the helm, the TPL group began to really blossom.

Image Credit: TPL Fresh Meats

From the late 1980s, they began importing live animals directly from Australia, honing in on the supply side of the business. Some notable businesses that they supply to include Kanna Curry House, The Olive Tree Group, Ratha’s, and more.

But then, they realised that not enough end consumers could get their hands on the fresh goat meat they wanted.

With that, the first TPL concept store was opened in Klang in 2006.

From supply to retail

Throughout the years, the family kept expanding. After opening an outlet in Klang, they returned to TPL’s birthplace of Teluk Intan to establish a store in 2007.

From there, they opened outlets in Hutan Melintang, Bangsar, Ipoh, Penang, and Seremban. The seven outlets are all owned and operated by TPL.

Keeping up with the supply for the growing retail front is TPL’s own farms. The business has two farms, one in Bidor, Perak, and another in Kluang, Johor. To cater to all Malaysians, the meats are halal-certified, and slaughtered in government abattoirs.

Image Credit: TPL Fresh Meats

“We are the sole operator at the Shah Alam Abattoir for the goats and lamb section,” Kamal shared. “Majority of our stores are delivered daily with a fresh supply of meat.”

TPL also has its own cold-chain logistics for delivery, ensuring that everything is kept fresh and of good quality.

This quality is something Kamal believes makes TPL stand out amongst other butcher shops. Beyond that, he also highlights their professional cuts and services, as well as their hygiene and proper handling of the meat.

Aside from growth, many things have changed since 1920, with the biggest one being their use of technology.

Understanding the importance of continual advancements, the team leverages social media marketing and ecommerce to stay relevant.

Diversified offerings

On the topic of ecommerce, TPL’s online shop lists not only an array of fresh raw meat, but also ready-to-cook offerings under a brand called TPL Gourmet Butchers.

Kamal explained that TPL Gourmet Butchers was started in October 2022 to offer customers a new range of products. Items under this brand include ready-to-cook patties, meatballs, satays, sausages, and more.

All these products are made in-house by TPL at their processing plant in Kampung Subang, Shah Alam.

Image Credit: TPL Fresh Meats

“We decided to go into this vertical because there was a demand for these kinds of products from our customers,” Kamal said. “And when we gave our meat to be made OEM, it was not the quality we wanted. So, we decided to make them ourselves.”

With the improved quality, he said that these value-added products make the business more attractive, and also generate better margins.

“It is not comparable apple to apple, which was the problem with the raw meat,” he said about the manufactured meat industry. “There are too many emerging new players in the market wanting to sell raw meat.”

Image Credit: TPL Fresh Meats

Beyond ready-to-cook foods, the business is also delving into the F&B sector. Currently, this vertical is still in the R&D process.

“We want to start selling food and we were testing the depth of the water by selling them at our TPL Bangsar store,” Kamal said.

“We got a good response from our customers, and hopefully by this year we will open our first restaurant which will be a totally new concept than ordinary restaurants.”

Continuing the legacy

This expansion will be an exciting one for the team as it may open them up to a new demographic of customers—foodies.  

For now, Kamal said their main audience is households that cook, including halal customers and Indian Hindu customers who go to TPL as they do not sell beef.

Image Credit: TPL Fresh Meats

While F&B will be a new adventure for the team, they’re not taking their focus off their core offerings.

To keep their brand relevant and competitive, TPL aims to improve the packaging of their products, making them look more attractive.

As for the bigger picture, they want to open another store in Johor, given the demand they’ve noticed there.

But beyond self-owned locations, Kamal also brought up the possibility of offering franchising opportunities.

Image Credit: TPL Fresh Meats

Till this day, the business has been kept within the family, with the current seven stores owned and operated by the three brothers. Aside from Kamal, his cousin brother is also involved as the fourth generation of TPL.

It’s impressive to see them not only continuing the legacy of their family business, but also continually adding to it, creating new offerings and solutions for their customers.

  • Learn more about TPL Fresh Meats here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written aout Malaysian startups here.

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

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