IN the early 1960s, while having breakfast with his family, well-known biscuit maker Chew Choo Han realised that food could also promote health besides satisfying basic needs.
He envisioned that the trend would evolve from the focus on taste to more emphasis on health and nutrition.
He then ventured into the manufacturing of oats, giving birth to Federal Oats Mills Sdn Bhd (FOM) in 1965 and Captain Oats.
It is now a household brand in Malaysia and in the region.
His grandson Michael Chew Kian Hong, 38, who is FOM executive director, said the company is well-positioned for further growth.
“We have invested substantially over the years in the Mak Mandin plant to meet global demand.
“Our priority is to produce fresher oats using our proprietary Oatifresh process. New products are also being developed.”
FOM is investing RM120mil on a new plant in Penang Science Park in Bukit Mertajam to enhance its competitive edge in the local and overseas markets.
The new facility, which will be ready in 2019, is being constructed on a 6.7-acre site in the designated Halal Food Zone.
The plant will engage over 100 employees with emphasis on skilled engineers and operators.
Kian Hong said Penang was chosen as the site for expansion due to their familiarity with the state, availability of a skilled workforce, and the dedicated Halal Food Hub set up by the Penang Development Corporation to cater to the growing halal food market.
Aimed at meeting increasing global demand for the Captain Oats range which includes Instant Oatmeal, Quick Cook Oatmeal and Rolled Oats, the new facility can produce up to 26 tonnes of oats per hour, which is about four times more than the six tonnes per hour capacity currently produced at the Mak Mandin plant.
“This is our second facility since our founding more than 50 years ago.
“Besides creating more jobs for locals, the subsequent impact on the supply chain will also help local businesses,” Kian Hong says.
He is eager to pursue this venture and contribute further to the legacy started by his grandfather.
“Captain Oats has grown into a recognised brand across South- East Asia, China, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
“We look forward to this endeavour which will help establish Captain Oats as a truly global household brand,” Kian Hong said.
Besides investment into the core manufacturing facilities, FOM will also invest heavily in research and development on new products.
“Among these will be oats-based cereal and food products which will deliver the hearty goodness of oats to consumers worldwide in different platforms such as mixed and ready-to-eat cereals,” he said.
According to Kian Hong, the company changes its packaging designs every three years to adapt to the current trend.
FOM also comes up with new products to meet the needs of the younger generation.
“We launched the flavoured oatmeal Eazy-Go a year ago with various flavours that the young generation might like.
“We have also developed recipes to show how versatile can oats be.
“To reach out to the young, we execute activities via online platforms and carry out in-store roadshows with cooking demonstrations,” he said.
“We are also focusing on the older generation like busy professionals, managers and businessmen with little time for exercise.
“We know that a balanced diet with Captain Oats® will be beneficial to their overall well-being,” Kian Hong added.
He said FOM purchases only the best oats for its products.
“At Captain Oats, we use premium quality oats from Australia.
“We put the oats through a highly automated state-of-the-art process to ensure that all the goodness of oats is sealed within each pack that leaves our mill.
“The secret lies in our kilning process where several critical factors are controlled to seal in the natural ‘oaty’ aroma and taste.
“We call this our Oatifresh® process,” he said.
Kian Hong said the annual growth of hot cereal oat consumption in the country is between 5% to 7%.
“Growth is not at double digits as this is a mature market with the locals having consumed oats since the early days of independence.”
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