When Ishpal and Serina Bajaj proposed to open a vegan ice cream shop in a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, they were opposed.
“They almost laughed when I said nobody would eat plant-based ice cream,” Ishpar said.
“I think the whole perception of it was plant-based [desserts] It was sorbet and fruit base. ”
But the couple were not only vegan, but were able to make ice cream “as good as any ice cream,” Serena said.
When they finally found a space in another mall, Ishpal and Serina realized they were on the right track.
“The support has been great…we were making about $8,500 to $10,000 a month,” Ishpal said.
Today, the Kind Kones co-founder says he has four stores in Malaysia and Singapore and is making “20 times more” sales.
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Their “first mover advantage”
After giving birth to her first child in 2017, Serena developed a dairy intolerance and began experimenting with vegan ice cream at home.
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“It was challenging, and at the time it was almost trial and error. But now I know how,” she added shyly without revealing her secret recipe.
Ishpal and Serina knew their ice cream was delicious, but were worried that a vegan dessert would appeal to the general public.
“At the time, veganism didn’t really exist in Malaysia…in the supermarket, you could probably get some weird soy-based ice cream,” Selina explained.
“And veganism was associated with bland, grassy food… We had this idea to launch Kind Kones and make it a small business.”
For Ishpal and Serina, who had no experience in the food industry, putting more than $140,000 into Kind Kones in their first year was a “gamble.”
But they soon realized there was a “first mover advantage” in plant-based ice cream made from all-natural ingredients.
“We had someone come to us. [tell us] They’ve never had ice cream because there’s dairy,” Serena said.
They also noticed that the dessert catered not only to those with a plant-based lifestyle, but also those with skin conditions such as eczema and other allergies.
“child [are] It’s a huge market for us…we cater for allergies, so our parents fed their kids our ice cream,” she said.
stick to their guns
Before launching her own venture, Serina grew up in the Thai fashion world — thanks to her family’s retail business.
Her business background may have been lucrative, but she also found the food and beverage industry to be “brutal.”
“When I go shopping, I’m in a very good mood, but when I’m hungry… when I buy something, there’s an expectation that it has to be perfect,” she explained.
The couple have developed ice cream recipes that taste as “indulgent” as their non-vegan options, but Selina added that their products don’t satisfy every palette.
“There are certain flavors that will never be like conventional ice cream…for example, our strawberry ice cream uses real strawberries and is sweetened with bananas,” she explained.
“It takes time to get used to it. But I think that’s what we’re going for. We’re trying to offer a real taste.”
Another common complaint? price. The couple admitted that their ice cream is expensive compared to other brands.
“We have a price premium…what’s in it is expensive. We make everything. For example, our nut milks aren’t store-bought.
In response to inflation and rising food costs, Ishpar said there must also be “obvious price increases”.
“But we introduced the Junior Scoop … so you have a choice [and] Not too heavy for your pocket. ”
Despite this, the couple has always chosen to stick to their guns in the face of challenges.
“You definitely have to develop thick skin and know that you can’t please everyone. You have to stick to what you’re good at.
This approach appears to have paid off, as Kind Kones doubled its revenue from 2020 to 2021, said Ishpal.
“This year, we expect to double our revenues again.”
With new funding, Kind Kones has set its sights on stocking frozen food on supermarket shelves in Malaysia and Singapore.
“It will be easier for people to access,” said Ishpal.
The future looks bright for the couple, who are looking to expand into other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
Demand for plant-based products is growing across Asia, according to a 2021 joint report from PwC, Rabobank and Temasek.