BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

Selling pork lard products was their MCO backup plan, now they seek investors to scale

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As someone who prefers some form of texture in my food, I appreciate those fried garlic and onion chips as toppings on rice and noodle bowls. Plus points—they tend to enhance the flavour of a meal too.

Porkimah, as they call themselves on Instagram, or What The Pork?! on Facebook, is one business making such dish toppers. Except, they sell deep-fried pork lard you’d often find in hawker dishes like Hokkien mee, or Hakka noodles.

The reason they have 2 names is simple, as the Instagram handle for their official business name, What The Pork?! was taken. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll be referring to them as Porkimah in this article. 

Hawker aunties and uncles were the inspiration

Currently, the business sells 6 products in their Shopee store, all centred around pork lard. Its first product, Crispy Pork Lard, was inspired by local hawkers adding them as a garnish to elevate a dish’s flavour.

Co-founders Kevin and Adrian noticed this while dining out, and realised that adding pork lard could immediately enhance their homecooked dishes too. After conducting market research, the duo found that many often overlook the use of pork lard when cooking Chinese dishes, yet wondered why hawkers could make such tasty food.

This led to an epiphany, and they took the opportunity to create pork lard products as a staple in Asian households to help elevate home cooking.

Fried pork lard packaged and ready to eat / Image Credit: What The Pork?!

Prior to founding Porkimah, Adrian had been job hunting for roles as a chef in California after his hospitality education in Switzerland. He’d returned to Malaysia for a short while, but then came the global lockdowns. 

Without a direction in his life during the pandemic, Adrian was left unsettled. So when the idea to start Porkimah arose, he decided to channel his knowledge into the new venture.

Meanwhile, Kevin himself was in a difficult situation at the time. With a marketing background, he started a creative agency that was doing well pre-pandemic, but struggled to make a profit during MCO as clients deferred payments to sustain their own cash reserves.

Unable to sustain the agency, Kevin shut down the company to channel his time and energy to join Adrian in running Porkimah, which launched in March 2021.

An indulgent snack, but at what cost?

Although the Crispy Pork Lard (RM29.99 for a 200g container) can be used as a garnish to a meal, Porkimah is also branding it to be eaten as a standalone snack (RM17.99 for an 80g pack). Additionally, it has its own Crispy Pork Skin product (RM29.99 for 150g) which is reminiscent of salted egg yolk fish skin and KFC’s recent Crispy Chicken Skin Snack.

One of the challenges Porkimah may face is the perception that eating animal fat may lead to high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol. It’s what the KKM said about fried chicken skin, and it would most likely say the same about similar products like Porkimah’s.

Kevin addressed these concerns too, highlighting that pork lard isn’t often perceived as a snack.

“It’s mainly due to the elderly people who tend to say [pork lard] is unhealthy, fatty, etc. Though, we intend to create something tasty that everyone loves, and surprisingly pork lard is not as unhealthy as you might think and it’s definitely favourable among the keto-diet community,” he shared. 

But, as with all snacking, it should still be eaten in moderation.

Building a brand for trust

While there certainly are a few sellers for pork lard snacks on Shopee and Lazada, they tend to be unbranded or from an overseas manufacturer. This makes it hard to hold a specific brand accountable for your product quality.

Kevin was able to confirm this in his findings as well. “From what we are seeing in the market, several small businesses are selling crispy pork lard too, but we rarely see any business that [emphasises on] branding for this,” said the experienced marketer.

“This is crucial because branding is not only just for recognition but also represents confidence and reliance on the product. That’s why there are big brands like Lays, Super Ring, etc. So we decided to take this as one of our core factors to build the business.”

Bright and vibrant colour schemes on their packaging to stand out / Image Credit: What The Pork?!

To further expand Porkimah’s brand presence, there would need to be a clear approach for potential buyers to understand why the business carries different names. It does seem that the team is making it clear on social media, by consistently using Porkimah in their handles and URLs, while the business’s name is maintained as What The Pork?!

This practice would have to carry over to their sales channels as well, by at least stating on the product’s names or description that customers can find them on social media as Porkimah.

Targeting non-Muslim home cooks

Because the business is selling pork products, Porkimah is already shut out of Malaysia’s Muslim market right off the bat. However, it appears that Kevin and Adrian are clear on who their target market is, and are using the necessary methods to reach them.

“In the consumer market, our main target market is housewives who love to cook or food lovers in general that appreciate great Chinese food,” Kevin told Vulcan Post. To get their name out, they started by sharing word of Porkimah’s products to a nearby neighbourhood and Whatsapp groups. Via word-of-mouth, Kevin reported that they managed to get a substantial amount of orders. 

“Eventually, we ventured into media buying (Facebook post boosting). With social media buying, we manage to expand to wider areas and reach out to many more audiences, and got some potential customers along the way,” he explained. Porkimah also sells its products B2B, mostly to Chinese restaurants to help them keep up with their demand.

Though they’re likely one of the first local brands to create such products at the moment, Kevin acknowledged that the barrier of entry to this business is low. Thus, he’s focused on growing the business.

On average, they’re already producing 10-20kg of crispy pork lard per month at their current scale. To amp up production, Porkimah is seeking an investor.

Once that’s secured, in the near future, Kevin and Adrian hope to work on building a distribution line by stocking their products in grocery stores’ non-halal sections, and in restaurants.

  • You can learn more about What The Pork?! here.
  • You can read more F&B articles that we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: Kevin and Adrian, co-founders of What The Pork?!

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