After exiting a sneaker e-commerce store he founded at the age of 21, Nicholas Ou in his journey to discover his next venture came to believe that food will be the last frontier on the internet.
With a mission to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food, Ou and his team founded Spargo Eats in 2020, a destination for simple, accessible, healthy food and with an aim to bring healthy options to the fast-casual food business
“We believe the choices we make about what we eat, where it comes from and how it’s prepared have a direct and powerful impact on the health of individuals, communities and the environment,” Ou tells BusinessToday.
If You Are What You Eat, Shouldn’t You Know What You’re Eating
“We are riding two massive waves; circular shifts and the way people consume food. People want to finally eat healthier food, and these are the group that have woken up to the fact that they want to know where their food comes from and what’s in it,” Ou says.
He also raises another point on the way technology has impacted people’s lives and, in this case, Ou says it has helped more business owners get closer to their customers.
“In our world, it is a lot about reducing friction. When we talk to consumers, we put ourselves inside their shoes. We try to think about people’s desire to eat healthier and their friction in getting there. So how do we make healthy food more delicious and desirable but also reduce the friction in which they can access it?”
Spargo Eats is looking to create a win, win, win, win outcomes in all their decisions. Whereby the team creates solutions where customers win, the community wins, and the company wins.
Ou wants to achieve this by focusing on building a transparent supply network and reducing the time food takes to reach the consumers’ table with their tech-enabled food supply chains.
By sourcing from farmers and partners they trust, Spargo Eats can ensure food grown reaches tables with lower prices and are of higher quality. “We focus on taking out the middleman which reduces the mark-ups, minimises the inefficiencies and wastages while food is being transported to our tables,” he says.
Becoming a cloud kitchen
“We believe that there are two models of cloud kitchens, cloud kitchen 1.0 is when you take a big real estate and divide it into smaller kitchens and then rent them out to different merchants.
“That we believe is the kitchen version of wework, so we call it ‘wecook’. Fundamentally beyond the real estate there is not much synergy here. We see that as a hot trend now in Malaysia,” Ou highlights,
Spargo Eats on the other hand is looking to address multiple food missions through delivery-only food brands from the same kitchen. “This is just the tip of the iceberg; we have other key competencies that are in place for us to power our cloud kitchen platform. Do stay tuned!”
“The stereotype that healthy food is bland and expensive still pervades the minds of many and its one that us at Spargo Eats is hoping to break.
“We provide the privilege to our customers to customise their own meal, down to its size and contents. Think of it as a healthy version of ‘zhap fan’ (economy rice),” Ou says.
The menu at Spargo Eats focuses on warm grain bowls full of familiar Asian ingredients and has a base of grains too. The team injects their own spin on favourite local flavours and familiar Malaysian dishes such as the salted egg and green curry dressings.
Spargo Eats also offers salad options which are sourced directly from partners at Sunway’s FutureX Farm, where Ou and his team has the overview of the process of planting, growing and freshly harvesting the sources on the same day.
“Sunway FutureX Farm and us at Spargo Eats have similar food ethos. Their urban farms allow us to reduce unnecessary urban logistics and allow us to source sustainable ingredients. Transporting this food over long distances has a significant carbon footprint. At Spargo Eats, we want to promote the consumption of more local ingredients, which cover short distances from the farm to the kitchen, to the dish,” Ou shares.
Becoming the Critical Link
As for the future, Ou aspires to make Spargo Eats the critical link between growers and consumers. “We feel a responsibility to protect the future of real food and to that end, we’re committed to supporting small and mid-size growers who are farming sustainably, to create transparency and around what’s in your food and where it came from and to create more accessibility to healthy, real food for more people,” Ou says.
“Because here at Spargo Eats, impact is not an arm of our business, it is our business and it permeates everything we do, from what we source to who we hire and how we support local communities.
“We want to make an impact and leave people better than we found them and we tailor our approach in each market to reflect the needs of the community,” he concludes.