Farm Fresh boss milks demand for quality
LOI Tuan Ee could not have made a more radical career change than when he decided to become a milkman.
The founder of the Holstein Milk Company and Farm Fresh previously ran a carton packaging company. He had zero experience in the agriculture business when he decided to jump into the deep end of the pool.
A co-founder and deputy managing director at his former firm, Mr Loi divested of his shares in the mid-2000s and began to think about going into a business that was more sustainable.
What would people always need, he asked himself.
And the answer was food.
"You are not dependent on too few customers when it comes to food," said the 53-year-old.
And that was how his agriculture adventure began.
In 2006, Mr Loi started Rainforest Capital, hired 15 workers and acquired land in Kota Tinggi, Johor, to rear goats, grow dragonfruit and breed arowana fish.
But he decided to switch tack and focus on goat farming. By 2009, the company was bottling goat's milk and selling to hypermarkets.
There were obstacles.
"We managed to produce only very little milk, and customers say it's expensive. That was how we began to think about going into producing cow's milk," he recalled.
He acquired 100 cows and changed the company's name from Ladang Anglo Nubian to Farm Fresh (a subsidiary of Holstein) last year.
Mr Loi's motto: Everyone should be able to consume fresh milk any time.
Most of the other milk brands use reconstituted milk, milk powder or solids. Otherwise, they add preservatives.
By not using preservatives to keep his milk longer, the shelf-life of Farm Fresh's milk is limited to about three weeks.
Mr Loi said people would joke about his milk being the fastest to go bad. "They say the milk goes sour by the time the customer gets to the check-out counter," he joked.
"We educate our consumers to bring cooler bags and to consume it within three days of opening," he added.
Mr Loi's decision helped Farm Fresh stand out from the competition. Today, the company produces about one million bottles of milk a day.
The number of cows has grown from 100 in 2009 to 3,200. They are kept in two farms - in Kota Tinggi and at Muadzam Shah Cattle Research and Innovation Centre in Pahang.
He also relies on about 50 contract dairy farmers.
Today's successful dairy farm business is a result of plenty of capital and hard work.
"I started by learning about how to take care of cows, and I had to try to sell the bottled milk at farmers' markets, pasar malam and supermarkets myself," he said,
"It was a lot of work to introduce our milk and to get feedback from customers."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK