SINGAPORE, March 9 — If you’re a regular gym goer, you might be familiar with the Chicken Breast Conundrum.
Briefly, many who are trying to build muscle would increase their lean protein intake. One of the most popular ways to do this is to eat chicken breast — but that gets boring rather quickly.
Which is a problem BE Protein Smoothies hopes to remedy as the first company in Singapore to market meat-based smoothies. That’s right: chicken breast... in a bottle.
Founder Brian Chia believes that drinking a chicken protein smoothie would be easier than consuming bland chicken breasts. Certainly the two flavours currently available — Mango Coconut and Yuzu Banana — sound enticing enough.
Chia was trained in design for interactive media and has been in the advertising industry for the past decade. But venturing into entrepreneurship was entirely new to him, requiring both a leap of faith as well as a deeper push factor, to escape the rat race.
He says, “I have no background in business development nor product manufacturing. I knew from the course of my employment that I didn’t enjoy corporate bureaucracy and a 9-to-5 grind. Moreover, I have always wanted to create something that relates to fitness.”
Indeed, as a fitness enthusiast, Chia has the physique of a personal trainer and admits to being one of those gym buffs who would continually eat chicken breast meat in an effort to achieve the necessary protein intake for muscle growth and recovery.
He recalls the gruelling and monotonous diet: “As I grew tired of the chicken and broccoli regimen, I got the idea of blending lean chicken breasts meat into smoothies from a friend from Thailand. I thought it was a brilliant idea and since I couldn't find such a product in Singapore, I turned the idea into a business.”
Fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders alike enjoy the convenience of the chicken protein smoothies. The idea is that they would be enticed by the convenience of refuelling with a chicken protein smoothie after a few sets of heavy deadlifts rather than sitting down for a heavy meal.
The product is versatile: it can be mixed with other ingredients to make new beverages, or used to make high protein pancakes or high protein popsicles.
While many new food and beverage (F&B) entrepreneurs go through months of research and development, Chia was fortunate enough to have had a head start by acquiring the base recipe for the chicken breast smoothie from his Thai friend.
“However, business in Singapore is all about compliance so I had to tweak the recipe and conduct multiple trial-and-error lab tests to get the accurate macronutrients certified. I have also changed the recipe based on the ingredients I could source in Singapore.”
One challenge during this early phase was the shelf life of the product. As no preservatives, stabilisers and emulsifiers are added, the smoothies would turn bad in less than a week.
“To counter this, I have done quite a bit of research and finally with the help of FIRC (Food Innovation and Research Centre) Singapore and IPI (Innovation Partner for Impact) Singapore, I managed to adopt a process called HPP (High Pressure Processing) by Hiperbaric to extend my products’ shelf life to 30 days.”
The HPP process, also known as high pressure pascalisation or cold pasteurization, is a non-thermal F&B preservation method based on the use of high isostatic pressure transmitted by water. The resultant effect is equivalent to pasteurisation, except without the use of heat.
Or, in the case of BE Protein Smoothies, chicken breast smoothies that taste as good as when it’s freshly made, even up to a month after production.
With the product development hurdle overcome, Chia’s next challenge was streamlining the actual production. He says, “I started with one man operation from production in my home kitchen. Online sales and delivery through public transport, carrying the smoothies from door to door.”
While this lean and agile startup business model was manageable in the beginning when Chia was selling an average of 20 litres per month, today his sales is closer to 600 litres per month through online and consignment with local gyms and health food portals.
Some scaling up was desperately needed. He says, “I am lucky to have found a reliable OEM manufacturer to manage my production, and also working with delivery partners on the fulfilment so I can focus on sales and marketing.”
Sometimes timing is everything. While many brick-and-mortar businesses around the world were badly affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic, BE Protein Smoothies saw an increase of 130 per cent in orders during the Circuit Breaker (Singapore’s nationwide partial lockdown) last year.
Chia explains, “Since BE Protein Smoothies has always been an online business, I just needed to invest more on digital marketing to expand outreach to make up for the loss in sales in gyms and retail floors. Feedback has been great so far: the most common value for the customers is the convenience/time save for them to get sufficient nutrition amongst their busy schedule.”
Therein lies the appeal of the product: its simple value proposition. Chia’s customers can grab a bottle of chicken protein smoothie on the go when they are in a rush. It’s clear, straightforward and precise.
For the next phase, Chia plans to add more products to complement the existing ready-to-drink range. He says, “I also hope to expand my sales channels with more gyms and on/offline retail points.”
Ultimately the business works because it’s based on a need the founder himself shares; Chia himself was the first customer, the target audience. He says, “I am motivated by the idea that my customer can drink the smoothie instead of consuming fast or junk food — which offers the same amount if not higher calories, but with worse macros — when they have no time.”
By solving his own problem, Chia has made lives better for others like him. And that is what entrepreneurship at its best achieves: making the world a better place, one small solution at a time.
BE Protein Smoothies