Hexa Food spicing up traditional flavours
It also plans to open concept store so shoppers can try food
prepared with its herbs, spices and seasoning
IF you enjoy cooking, life will seem boring without herbs, spices and seasoning. Hexa Food Sdn Bhd, for which adjectives such as spicy, tangy, and sweet are part of its daily vocabulary, will be able to cater to your needs.
The homegrown herbs, spices and seasoning producer recently made headlines when it was voted to the number two spot in the Enterprise 50 (E50) awards organized by the SME Corporation of Malaysia.
It was recognized for its supply of quality food items, spices, herbs and seasoning, and dedicated service 1n the food industry.
Each year, 50 winners are. selected by E50 based on their ﬁnancial capabilities, operations, and management competencies.
“We didn’t have high hopes as the companies that took part had higher revenues and larger staff strengths, “ says Hexa Food general manager Gary Gan
Hence, he says the company's achievement boil down to the way it approach business it is in.
Gan started Hexa Food in 2007 after winding up a family venture in flour and curry powder production.
“It is easy to form a company but not easy to close it," he says, reﬂecting on how
he had to cut the company's losses and settle its debts.
Gan, who studied mechanical engineering, saw potential in the herbs, spices and seasoning market and decided to give it a go.
“We were fairly new players in this business. When we started, I had no experience in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, and neither did my factory manager.
“Our decisions were based on our gut feelings, and we learned everything from sales and marketing to accounting in order to improvise and innovate at every step of our growth," he says.
Hexa Food’s initial clients were largely foodservice operators and manufacturers. It made its way into hypermarkets in 2010. Its ﬁrst production facility in Jalan Kebun, Shah Alam, caters to retail clients while its second, in Pandamaran, Klang,
Concentrates on bulk orders.
The company produces about 100 tones of products monthly from its two facilities.
Educating its staff on topics beyond the job scope plays an important part in Hexa Food’s human resource policy.
“Our training topics have included cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ﬁnance, and stress management. We even had Befrienders come in to talk about stress and suicide prevention,” Gan says.
He says the company makes a conscious effort to provide employees with non-work related training to help in their self-development.
Gan says the weak ringgit against major currencies in the past several months resulted in a 10% rise in production cost as most of his company's raw materials are sourced from India, China, Turkey and Indonesia.
Exports contribute 15% to its total turnover, with customers in South Korea, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia.
Hexa Food's regional spice trade is reminiscent of the Melaka Sultanate so me 600 years ago when Western explorers travelled to Asia to source spices from local traders.
Lower economic impact
Last year, the company achieved revenue of RMIO mil, and Can is optimistic of growing it to RM12 mil this year.
“The impact of the economic slowdown in the food business is lower. The population is increasing, and this means our potential markets are growing too," he says.
The passage of time also changes many things, including the way people prepare their meals.
“Back in the 19603 and 19708, people cooked in large batches to feed their families. In the 19805 and 19905, they wanted to cook something nice to share.
“Today, cooking has become experiential, and people want to enjoy the process and steps taken to prepare their dishes," Gan says.
He says urban home cooks below 40 tend to buy smaller portions of spices. But this still lasts them well over six months.
Hence, the company introduced smaller packs in its range of herbs and spices, which come in zip lock packaging for easy storage. This way, the products
will be consumed sooner and always be fresh when used.
Its ziplock range of ground and mixed spices remains highly popular and is among Hexa Food’s main sales contributors in the retail market.
From biryani powder, Cajun spices, Chinese ﬁve spices powder and garam masala, they are among the products that cater to home cooks seeking a fast and convenient solution to food preparation. Additionally, Hexa Food produces, cooking video tutorials, which are uploaded on its social media platform.
“These days, before people cook, they refer to YouTube videos. Only then do they shop for ingredients and prepare the dish," he says.
The Malaysian herbs and spices market, Gan says, is progressive and receptive to different types of food and cuisines.
Certain markets such as Japan, Korea and some parts of China may have a more conservative approach to food, but he sees growing demand for Arabic and Western spices in the retail segment.
This year, Hexa Food plans to introduce its ﬁrst concept store, possibly within a hypermarket which allows shoppers to try food prepared with its spices.
This interactive concept is similar to the way the company markets its products to its business-to-business customers.
And, instead of conventional selling, the company started a food service division which looks at new ways to incorporate its products into a variety of applications.
“If I am trying to sell you ﬂour to fry chicken, the best way to convince you is to let you taste it. Having the best presentation or Videos will not work.
“We partner with restaurant operators to prepare food using our ingredients. That way, we can take our clients to these restaurants to sample our products,” says Gan.
Hexa Food is in talks with restaurants on the concept store and aims to launch it by the second quarter. Should the idea pan out, it can help boost retail sales.
“Since day one, we knew we did not want to diversify into other businesses. That is why we collaborate with other SMEs as we do not have to run everything ourselves,” he says, stressing the importance of working with others.
Growth in sauces, premix
On which market segments will make it big in the future, he says sauces and premixes will be the next major push, owing to the shrinking sizes of modern kitchens.
“People used to make their own sauces, but as kitchens get smaller especially in condominiums, they prefer products which simplify the cooking process," he says.
He notes that Malaysians tend to favor the potency of sauces and gravies over the natural aroma of ingredients.
“When we have our sweet and sour meat dish, we want to taste the ﬂavour of the sauce. It’s the same when we have roti canai with lots of curry and dhal.
“We have grown accustomed to sauces as opposed to the Vietnamese, for example, whose dishes focus on the natural ﬂavours of the ingredients,” Gan says.
On that note, he expressed conﬁdence that Hexa Food’s cheese ﬂavoured seasonings will perform well in the retail market once they hit the stores in the coming months.
He believes various factors come into play when introducing new product and solutions to market.
“ The greater the dependency on sauce, the better the sale of herbs, spices and seasoning.” He says.
"Focus Malaysia : Jan 21-27, 2017"