“Sweetness is a taste, you don’t need the calories from sugar to get that sweetness. Consumers are more health conscious now and they are looking for alternatives. So there is a big demand for products like ours,” says Anas Lufti Norman, chief information officer of Potonguler.
Founded in November 2018, Potonguler manufactures sweetened condensed milk with zero white sugar. Instead, its product is sweetened with stevia.
Anas, whose mother is a diabetic patient, says his family has long been involved with advocacy work for diabetes. This led to a long-standing practice of abandoning white sugar in the family.
The stevia-sweetened condensed milk was an accidental discovery by his sister Amirah Jasmine Norman, who was then studying at Le Cordon Bleu. Following a successful trial run with diabetic patients, they decided to take it to market.
The timing for Potonguler’s flagship product couldn’t have been better, he says, what with the introduction of the sugar tax and the increasing awareness on health.
“The awareness of stevia is growing. And we believe this is the future of the food industry,” he says.
The company started distributing its condensed milk through neighbourhood marts and sales is picking up.
It currently produces about 3,000 packets a month at its small lot in Shah Alam. The recent addition of a new machine will add to its capacity by another 20,000 packets.
Potonguler is also aiming to expand into the business-to-business (B2B) segment once it obtains its halal certification.
“It is a big market. We could go to bubble tea players, mamak stores or other food producers and offer our condensed milk as an alternative ingredient,” says Anas.
He asserts that Potonguler’s condensed milk is 70% full cream milk, which is higher milk content than most other creamers available in the market. This makes its condensed milk appealing to food producers looking to meet new consumer demand for products that are healthier and of better quality. Anas is optimistic of its growth potential. He notes that the local condensed milk market is worth about RM1.5bil a year and getting even a small slice of that pie was good enough for the company.
“We are looking at developing other products in the future such as fruit juices, ice cream, ready-to-drink coffee and chocolate, and other dairy products. We are also going to come up with a condensed milk that is more suited for the B40 price-point.
“And we are hoping to go into the premium grocers once we have established our brand. It is hard to go into this segment now because the cost is high, like cost of shelving, for example,” says chief managing officer Atirah Danial Norman.
The family has invested about RM250,000 in the business to-date. According to Anas, the company will break even once production hits 5,000 packets a month, which will be sooner rather than later given that demand has exceeded its current capacity. Revenues average at about RM30,000 a month.
Anas is hoping to secure some government funding to expand its facility to start catering to the export market. He is eyeing Singapore as well as the Indonesian market.
“We are trying to get funding to set up a manufacturing facility in Indonesia, maybe an existing factory with ready food compliance. We want to tap the consumer market there. It’s a big market.
“Whereas for Malaysia and Singapore, we want to focus more on the B2B market,” he says.
He is also expecting potential suitors to come knocking on its doors.
“There is potential for acquisition activities. We have patented our product and there is a lot of potential for large food players to integrate our products. They need to change because people want healthier products now.
“But we are being very strategic about the partnerships and investments that we take on. We do need a big brother to grow. We can’t do this on our own because we are small,” he says.
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