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Kettle Gourmet Founder On Building A Popcorn Empire

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Three years ago, Zac Chua, founder and CEO of The Kettle Gourmet shared with Vulcan Post about his entrepreneurial journey and insights on running a popcorn business.

The “Popcorn Guy” has since expanded his business from a fledgling startup to a growing popcorn empire.

“Since 2018, The Kettle Gourmet has grown by leaps and bounds. I’m proud to say that we’ve grown greatly since 2018, and my team and I have worked hard to achieve a 200 per cent year-on-year revenue growth since we started,” Zac told Vulcan Post. 

The Kettle Gourmet’s Selection of Classic and Local Flavours / Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet

Tapping on local palettes, he released Nasi Lemak, Kaya Butter Toast, Chicken Floss and Chili Crab flavours along with classic ones like Salted Caramel and Chocolate.

Previously, the company operated out of a central kitchen in Tai Seng, but they have since expanded to a full-fledged factory located in Subang, Malaysia. 

The Kettle Gourmet’s popcorn is also stocked at all 28 Fairprice Finest outlets, online on its own website, as well as retailers such as Shopee, RedMart, GrabFood and foodpanda. Most recently, it joined AirAsia’s delivery service as its first vendor. 

The Kettle Gourmet also offers customisable popcorn gift boxes, each adorned with vibrant colours and their easily recognisable snack monster mascots. 

The Kettle Gourmet’s Popcorn Gift Box
The Kettle Gourmet’s Popcorn Gift Box / Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet

It has also expanded its business offerings, and now provides a subscription model so loyal customers can have a constant supply of popcorn. 

COVID-19 Did Not Back Him Into A Corner

kettle gourmet livestream
A livestream by The Kettle Gourmet  / Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet – Facebook

During the onset of last year’s circuit breaker, The Kettle Gourmet had to pivot from serving mainly corporate customers and stocking office pantries to focusing on consumers working from home. 

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They took to increasing their social media presence to brand themselves as the go-to work-from-home snack.

“As a young team with an average age of 22 years old, we love creating fun, interesting posts – we’re all very much social media lovers here at The Kettle Gourmet,” said Zac. 

The team also used the downtime during the circuit breaker to undergo a total rebrand exercise, and they have since created an entirely new look for the brand, which features the “snack monsters” as mascots. 

The Kettle Gourmet’s Rebranded Packages / Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet – Facebook

According to Zac, the new branding has been a big hit with The Kettle Gourmet’s customers. His focus on social media outreach and rebranding paid off, and The Kettle Gourmet’s revenue grew by a whopping 247 per cent amid the pandemic.

Listen To Your Customers

Zac strongly believes that listening to your customers can make or break your company. According to a Salesforce report, 66 per cent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations.

“At The Kettle Gourmet, we are constantly evolving to increase our offerings for our customers and partners. From building on our digital-first approach through social media, adding to our online retailers’ partners, to recently launching our new online subscription service on our website to allow customers to order their favourite snacks more easily.”

Carefully listening to customer feedback and sales data has allowed Zac to plan for new flavour launches as well as phase out older ones, keeping his collection fresh and in-demand.

The brand’s most popular flavour at the moment is Nasi Lemak. They sell a few hundred bags of Nasi Lemak popcorn each day, even after the circuit breaker has ended. 

the kettle gourmet nasi lemak popcorn
The Kettle Gourmet’s Nasi Lemak Popcorn / Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet – Facebook

Zac is constantly looking to keep his customers’ on their toes, either through new flavours or collaborations with other brands.

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“Customer retention and value is important to us and one way that we aim to increase that is to always pursue exciting partnerships,” said Zac, adding that the team is currently working on a new licensing project with Pokémon. 

“People” Is At The Core Of His Business Strategy

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is to take and listen to feedback closely, because it’s really all about the customer,” shared Zac.

He gathers his employees every Friday for team bonding sessions, as well as to see if they have any ideas on how to improve the business. 

He attributes this feedback loop and his consistent investments in listening to his employees as the reasons why The Kettle Gourmet has grown so rapidly over the past three years. 

Zac goes on to explain that it’s all about the people in his eyes – if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, who will then take care of the business.

“You only have to be right once, and the rest is history, so just “whack”! One of my business strategies, which I still implement today, is a multi-pronged approach — throwing multiple efforts everywhere and seeing which ones work well for us, with my employees and of course, our customers.”

An ardent advocate of networking, Zac is grateful to be in and to receive support from entrepreneur groups like Entrepreneur’s Organisation (EO) and Bosses Network Youth Chapter (BNYC). 

He credits The Kettle Gourmet’s success to the customers, his team and mentors who have supported him since the beginning.

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“It’s not what you know, but who you know. Your network is everything,” said Zac. 

Building A Popcorn Empire

Sharing future business plans, Zac plans to transform The Kettle Gourmet into a conglomerate by building two more F&B brands within the next three to five years, with the eventual goal of selling the company. 

“I’m also interested in entering new market opportunities overseas such as China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines,” he said.

“My team and I are currently researching and developing new regional flavours for consumers in these markets to enjoy. We’re also always looking for great distributors and potential partners in these countries to work with.”

He added that they are currently only “five per cent done” and have many more interesting flavours and collaborations up their sleeves. Sharing a teaser, Zac said that customers can keep a look out for some its latest flavours like Fish Head Curry and Pulut Hitam.

Interested in getting some of their popcorn? Check them out now on our brand-new e-commerce site here.

Featured Image Credit: The Kettle Gourmet



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