Malaysian Food Start Up Concept Ready To Take On Global Expansion With US$1.5M Seed Funding

Recently a Malaysia-based food start up, Meals in Minutes has secured USD1.5 million in seed funding, with 500 Global leading the investment by and joined by an undisclosed private investor. The startup with concept born out of necessity for amateur cook and busy individuals is planning for their expansion in United Kingdom (UK), Malaysia and Singapore using the seed funding they received.

Founded in 2020 by Brandon Lim, and its co-founder Khiara Mia has revolutionised cooking mainly targetting the busy individuals and F&B entreprises as their main consumers. Focused on halal-certified offerings, the startup provides frozen, portioned meals tailored for swift and effortless preparation.

Carrying certifications for HALAL, HACCP, and ISO 22000 compliance, the company’s products enable customers to whip up a delectable dish in 15 minutes or less. By doing so, it aims to streamline cooking for those with hectic routines while meeting the demands of the food industry. All meals produced undergo flash-freezing and individual portioning, addressing concerns regarding food wastage which is one of their business strategies.

Speaking to BusinessToday exclusively, the founder, Brandon Lim shared that they are aiming to broaden their brand presence in Malaysia and Singapore using the USD1.5 million seed funding received. The plan will involve the start up company to maximise the accessibility of their product by expanding them to additional stores and various food outlet throughout the region. Additionally, the company also plan to reach out to hospitality and healthcare industries as they see the growth potential in the fields.

Brandon Lim, Founder and Khiara Mia,  Co-founder of Meals in Minutes

Founding Meals In Minutes
Brandon and Khiara crossed path as students at the University of Reading. Khiara, with her aspirations in law, found herself drawn to Brandon’s passion for business and entrepreneurship. This initial connection laid the foundation for their partnership, where their first joint venture involved importing Malaysian food products across more than 100 stores in UK. However, life took an unexpected turn when Brandon’s father faced health complications, prompting their return to Malaysia, bringing both founders to a crossroads, seeking a new entrepreneurial pursuit.

It was during this period of reflection and brainstorming that the concept of Meals in Minutes began to take shape. As Kiara regarded herself as an amateur cook, she wanted to make cooking easier. They then envisioned a solution to revolutionise meal preparation. The goal was clear: to offer a convenient yet wholesome alternative to fast food and instant meals, free from artificial additives and preservatives for those with hectic schedules and little experience in the kitchen.

Brandon said they then started their years of research and development, coupled with numerous trials and errors. “We aspired to simplify cooking, envisioning a solution that is both effortless and promotes good health. Several years of research and development and a series of trial and error were necessary to arrive at the current concept.”

Meals In Minutes Concept and Innovation
The company distinguishes their products from other meal kit services by offering several unique features tailored to meet the needs of amateur cooks and busy individuals. “Firstly, our products are frozen at their freshest point, ensuring optimal flavour and nutritional value, with a freezer shelf life of over a year. This allows customers to store their meals until they’re ready to enjoy them, providing unmatched convenience.” Khiara said.

“Another thing that sets us apart is our innovative approach to cooking. Our raw proteins empower customers to take charge of the cooking process, resulting in a superior taste compared to traditional frozen ready meals that are pre-cooked and often laden with artificial flavours and preservatives. We prioritise all-natural ingredients, eliminating preservatives and additives from our offerings.” she added. She also mentioned the products are customisable as customers can mix and match proteins, bases, and sides according to their preferences, and they can use preferable cooking methods.

When asked about how their product innovation played a crucial role for their company as a food startup, Khiara said “…innovation is at the core of our strategy, serving as a key factor in navigating the competitive market. The success of a food startup hinges on its ability to anticipate and respond to consumer trends, dietary preferences, and lifestyle changes.”

From leveraging data analytics to gain insights into consumer behaviour, to exploring new cooking methods, ingredients, and sustainable packaging solutions, Khiara said they aim to meet and exceed customers’ expectations in the competitive food market by remaining agile and proactive in pursuing creative solutions.

Sustainability Initiatives in Collaboration with CleanHub
Khiara shared that they are committed to sustainability and addressing environmental concerns such as food wastage and excessive packaging, Together with CleanHub, they actively address plastic pollution by participating in plastic waste collection initiatives for every product sold.

“Frozen food plays a significant role in reducing food wastage by extending the shelf life of perishable items, preserving ingredients’ quality over an extended period.” Khiara said.

To minimise excessive packaging, the company adopt a minimal packaging philosophy, utilising transparent, recyclable pouches with minimal printing to reduce environmental footprint.

Challenges and Successes
In establishing Meals in Minutes, Khiara expressed deep gratitude for her parents’ unwavering encouragement. Similarly, Brandon credited his family’s role for their expertise and network in the family business that helped them to navigate Meals In Minutes in its early day.

Securing initial funding was crucial for Meals in Minutes’ launch. “We explored traditional routes such as seeking investors and engaging in pitch sessions.” Brandon said. They managed to secure a modest sum of funding from an angel investor, sacrifices such as forgoing salaries and prioritising cash flow maintenance were necessary, and received positive feedback from B2C customers. The recent pandemic also presented them with new challenge, “ss the pandemic has prompted a shift in consumer behaviour towards home cooking.” he added.

As founders, Khiara and Brandon faced personal challenges, including the decision to pursue entrepreneurship over stable career paths and the inherent risks associated with startup ventures. Overcoming these challenges required strong conviction, resilience, and a commitment to continuous learning. Drawing inspiration from podcasts and learning from the experiences of other founders, they navigated the startup landscape with determination and adaptability.

In response to global trends, particularly influenced by the pandemic, Meals in Minutes aligned its strategies to meet changing consumer behaviors and preferences. With increased demand for convenient meal solutions, the company’s frozen food offerings with extended shelf life met consumers’ needs. Ensuring rigorous safety standards and providing preservative-free options resonated with health-conscious consumers, while offering diverse cooking methods catered to varying culinary preferences and skill levels, addressing the trend towards home cooking.

Meals In Minutes Market Expansion In European Market and Future Plans
With recent seed funding of USD1.5 million, Brandon shared that they will leverage the capital for achieving key milestones, including successful expansion into the UK market. The UK market entry will involve replicating successful strategies employed in Southeast Asia, engaging directly with consumers and targeting the B2B market. Distributor markets will be launched to strategically position Meals in Minutes for broader availability and influence, serving as the initial entry point into the wider European market.

For cafe owners and businesses aspiring to provide food services, the company is planning to offer an innovative solution to optimise kitchen operations. “These establishments can optimise their kitchen operations, achieving efficient and consistent production of gourmet meals without needing a fully equipped kitchen or employing a professional chef.” he said

As the food industry is projected to grow substantially from 2024 to 2028, the company strategically positions itself to capitalise on this growth by prioritising innovation, market expansion, and technology integration. Continuous innovation in product offerings, along with a deep understanding of consumer preferences, allows the brand to cater to evolving demands in Malaysia and beyond. The founders also invested in understanding cultural nuances of different markets to tailor offerings accordingly, leveraging technology and data analytics to adapt swiftly to changing trends and enhance online presence. They will also collaborate with local chefs or culinary influencers, establish effective distribution channels, and adapt marketing strategies to communicate the brand’s unique value proposition effectively to UK consumers.

Furthermore, the company strategic plan includes launching distributor markets and strategically positioning MIM for broader availability and influence. The UK market serves as our initial entry point into the wider European market, marking the beginning of our journey to introduce the convenience and excellence of Meals in Minutes to an international audience.

With strategic plans for market expansion, innovative product development, and a commitment to meeting evolving consumer demands, Meals in Minutes is set for continued success and growth. Leveraging recent seed funding and a deep understanding of market dynamics, the brand is well-positioned to capitalise on opportunities in Malaysia, Singapore, and the UK, while addressing challenges with agility and flexibility.

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