What does it take to build a snack delivery service that's not only homegrown but healthy? How do you carve a niche and cultivate a following amid the numerous food platforms now available online?
Celine Lim and Nick Tan, the husband-and-wife team behind Fresh Bulk, credit their success to a combination of reasons - their extensive experience in the F&B industry that prepared them for their own business, the natural freshness and flavours of their products, and of course, the right timing.
Fresh Bulk marks its six-year anniversary in 2022, a tribute to its resilience and a testament to its offerings, which span its own-roasted nuts to trail mixes, dried fruits, cookies and spreads.
Celine and Nick started Fresh Bulk in 2016 to solve one of their own problems. They were trying to eat healthy but had difficulty finding wholesome snacks at fair prices. So they simply decided to sell their own.
Back then, Celine and Nick had full-time jobs at a company that sold fast-moving F&B consumer merchandise. Celine was a manager, making sure the company complied with ISO requirements and documentation, keeping track of sourcing material from all over the world. Nick was in charge of day-to-day operations, fixing problems that popped up.
They initially launched Fresh Bulk as a trader of healthy snacks, packaging and selling ingredients. But Celine sought to do more - she wanted Fresh Bulk to have its own signature product that customers would keep returning for.
That turned out to be Fresh Bulk's nuts, roasted at its headquarters in Ipoh.
Once Fresh Bulk had flourished enough to merit its own nut roaster, Celine worked on creating its distinctive nuts. Some roasters might add flavourings and seasonings that dramatically alter how the nuts taste, but Fresh Bulk only slightly salts its nuts, relying on its roasting process to bring out the natural sweet-savoury flavours of its nuts.
True to its name, freshness is Fresh Bulk's forte.
Store-bought nuts suffer from the time they took traveling to the store and sitting on the shelves; they're often crushed in transport, exposed to sunlight and other damaging elements. Fresh Bulk counters those risks by sourcing for its own raw nuts, picking the perfect ones to roast, then shipping directly to the consumer.
Fresh Bulk meticulously selects the best raw nuts - for example, almonds are brought in whole and unbroken from California, boasting a more intense nuttiness than commercial almonds.
For Fresh Bulk, 2019 marked a milestone. Celine and Nick left their former jobs to focus on Fresh Bulk. They moved their business out from their home into a 2,100-square-metre shop-lot in Bandar Seri Botani, Ipoh. And they finally secured their nut roaster.
After their Californian-sourced almonds acquired a fan base, Celine and Nick had the confidence to start roasting other nuts, including macadamias from Australia, hazelnuts from Turkey, plus peanuts, pecans, cashews and walnuts.
Thanks to Celine’s previous work in sourcing for ingredients, Fresh Bulk has no trouble procuring high-grade, high-in-demand nuts. All their nuts are roasted fresh, with no preservatives or additives - simple yet so satisfying. As Celine says, “just like how a mother would cook for her children.”
If Fresh Bulk ever receives a shipment of raw nuts that aren't fresh enough, aren't large enough or are damaged in any way, they won't be roasted.
Fresh Bulk believes in quality so much, it maintains a seven-day taste guarantee - customers can return a product that isn't still fresh within a week of receiving it.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Fresh Bulk was fortunate to have already established its online platform. It invested in a second, higher-capacity roaster to roast 150 kilograms of nuts daily to keep up with demand, almost four times the capability of its first roaster. That helped its revenue increase an impressive 165% on-year.
The Fresh Bulk family has expanded too, with Nick overseeing a larger operations team, ensuring everything is packaged and sent to customers efficiently. He also handles product R&D, with Fresh Bulk constantly releasing new treats like garlic nuts, made with real garlic, while Celine is responsible for quality control, sales management and market research.
Brand awareness is their current concern. They're striving for instant brand identification, working on packaging that's more striking than their current leafy, nature-focused look. They also hope to eventually offer Fresh Bulk's products not only online but at physical retail outlets and restaurants.
Ultimately, they're thankful that their customers enjoy their work, with more than 10,000 five-star reviews on Shopee and a 98% positive rating on Lazada.
“When customers give us a five-star review, all the hard work pays off," Celine says. "We just want to offer healthy snacks. We might not be very famous, but we do it sincerely. Customers can feel this.”
Credit to: Eat Drink KL