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Monday April 23, 2012

Stylo Milo

The duo behind the popular fashion labels Salabianca, Philosophy Men and Graffi Tee reminisce about growing up with Nestlé products.

HERE I am, rattling off a list of Nestlé products one might find in kitchens or on supermarket shelves. And back comes this oft-repeated response − “Really? It’s under Nestlé?”

Tino Soon and Allan Chan keep expressing surprise that Maggi, Carnation Milk, Milkmaid, Smarties and Kit Kat are all in the Nestlé stable.

I must admit that I too, didn’t realise the Nestle connection to Carnation and Smarties. As Soon puts it: “It’s probably because the branding for the individual labels are so strong we never realised the connection.”

He is right – no one would argue they are household names, and not just in Malaysia, but worldwide.

Designing duo: Allan Chan (left) and Tino Soon of Salabianca/ Philosophy Men/ Graffi Tee fame.

What do the duo behind popular local fashion labels Salabianca, Philosophy Men and Graffi Tee have to say about their Nestlé experiences?

Salabianca, the women’s label, was established in 1999 while the men’s label followed in 2001. Finally the latter made its appearance in 2007.

Their stores are found around the country, including some of the most prestigious malls.

The 51-year-old Chan says he grew up having Milo, porridge and Nestum for breakfast. And that combination hardly deviated from day to day. His family even had Milo for tea, and sometimes, supper.

“We used to dip our crackers (biscuits) in Milo. And our huge tin of Milo would finish in days, as there were 10 of us in the family. Everyone in the family loved it,” says Chan, the administrative, marketing and PR half of the duo.

With a huge grin on his face, he adds that he took his Milo with no sugar, just condensed milk.

The guys enjoying their Milo with Nestlé low-fat milk. Some of their most memorable childhood moments also revolved around Nestlé products.

Soon jumps in with, “Ya-loh, with Milkmaid!”

Chan says now he takes his Milo with low-fat Nestlé milk and still no sugar, jokingly saying he’s sweet enough.

He adds that he’s been doing that for almost 30 years as he’s quite health-conscious. And the reason he chooses low-fat Nestle milk is that it is easily available.

“I used to spread margarine on my toast when I was younger, and then sprinkle some Milo on it,” Chan confesses with a sheepish grin.

Soon, 58, the creative/design half of the duo, with a cheeky grin, comes in with, “I used to take a scoop of Milo powder in a spoon and ate it like that. I always got scolded for that. My parents said it was better to mix it in hot water and milk as it’s more nutritious that way. It’s too ‘heaty’, they said, if you eat it plain.”

(I’m sure most of us have our own stories of our experiments with Milo. I added it to the putu piring and putu mayam that my Mum used to make at home. The combo was super yummy and dare I say, the best in the world – to me, anyway.)

I am stumped when Soon asks who created Milo and where it is from. I only know that Nestlé is a Swiss company but I have no idea about the origins of Milo.

(A check online soon got us the answers, though: Milo was developed by Nestlé’s Australian industrial chemist called Thomas Mayne in 1934 in Sydney. He called it Milo after the Greek mythical character Milon, who was known for his strength. It was developed because during The Great Depression, many children did not receive enough nutrients in their daily diet. Reputedly, Malaysians are the largest consumers of Milo. Go to www.milo.com.au for more on Milo.)

Both Chan and Soon remember their good old schooldays. And one of the most prominent memories is lining up for that cup of chilled Milo when the Milo van was present during Sports Days.

All of us pose the same question, though: “Why was the Milo from the Milo van more flavourful and chilled to the right temperature even without ice-cubes?”

Can anyone tell us?

Soon says it was a brilliant strategy by Milo to brand itself.

He adds that he consumed Milo as a child because back then, children were not allowed to drink coffee or tea.

His first coffee experience was after Form Five. It was an instant coffee – Nescafé. But the mischievous Soon confesses again that when he was young, he used to try and sneak a drink of it. “But I would get caught and be scolded yet again.”

And his answer to critics of instant coffee: “If you like it, you like it. I need my coffee and whether it comes from a machine or is cheap does not matter to me. I find people who only insist on drinking expensive coffee a bit pretentious.”

As the duo travel a lot because of the nature of their work, they share some of their experiences in those foreign lands.

“I was in Japan once and saw a pack of Nescafé there. I brought it back home and some of my friends tried it and said it was more aromatic. I agreed with them, though I don’t know why there is a difference with the Nescafé here,” notes Soon.

Chan chips in that when he was younger, his family used to drink a local version of coffee. But after he tried Nescafé, he developed a liking for it, and still prefers it to local coffee, to this day.

Carnation, too, was part of Chan’s memories of growing up until he was in his 20s. He says that he added it to his cup of teh tarik and to make cakes.

“My sister used to buy tins and tins of it because she used to bake a lot. Ah, such nostalgic moments,” sighs Chan.

The duo says for them, Smarties was a treat when they were kids.

“My grandmother used to buy them for me. Funnily enough, I just got a cake with Smarties sprinkled on it, from a close friend,” says Soon.

I ask them what Nestlé product they could never give up.

“Milo and Nestlé low-fat milk,” says Chan.

“Nestlé low-fat milk,” says Soon.

What’s yours?

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