Miaow Miaow on expansion mode
Behonce Beh 
Right: Miaow Miaow produces over seven million packets of snacks monthly

WHETHER it is a bag of prawn crackers or just something to nibble during the long hours at work, snacks or titbits have become a part of our lives.

Hence, the market opportunities for snack food products is just huge.

A report from Research and Markets says the global market for snack food is expected to reach US$620 bil (RM2.65 tril) by 2021, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 5.8%.

One snack food brand from the bustling town of Batu Pahat, Johor, is gaining traction and making inroads in the US and Europe.

Homegrown brand Miaow Miaow Food Products Sdn Bhd is known for its healthy extrusion snacks, roasted or fried puffed snacks, deep fried pillow snacks and potato chips among others.

Group managing director of Miaow Miaow group of companies Chink Poh Cheng foresees that its rebranding exercise will allow it to expand beyond its existing 40 markets and achieve a turnover of RM100 mil by the end of 2022.

He expects turnover for the year to reach RM53 mil and RM61 mil in 2018.

“We are eyeing the US and European markets for our next level of business growth. Our overseas market has contributed 66% of our overall revenues,” says Chink.

Changing tastes

He says that intense competition is shrinking product life cycles, hence the need for brands to meet consumers’ ever changing tastes.

The rebranding exercise includes the introduction of Miaow Miaow’s new packaging and its four new mascots.

“In today’s technology-driven economy, market demand and globalisation are driving changes that require companies to act faster.

“We have to be more responsive to changing consumer demands and taste buds than ever before,” Chink says.

Chink (right) oversees group financial and business development while Ch’ng drives the business growth of Miaow Miaow as its managing director 

Chink oversees group financial and business development while younger brother Ch’ng Poh Tee drives the business growth of Miaow Miaow as its managing director.

The Chuang brother’s journey can be traced to 1975 when, together with elder brother Chuang Poh Lim, they started a small family business in snack food distribution.

Their surnames differ from one another in terms of spelling as the romanisation of their Chinese name Chuang has changed over the years.

Their break came in 1983 when they were able to amass enough funds to set their own manufacturing facility.

The name Miaow Miaow, says Chink, came from a brainstorming session among family members as the business grew.

“We needed a name that carries a repetitive sound which makes it easier for people to remember. One of my nieces suggested Miaow Miaow and all of us agreed to it,” he says.

He says the word miao in Mandarin means wonderful, which added character to the brand.

Export market

In 1999, Miaow Miaow ventured into the export market and penetrated key markets in the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Recently, the company invested over RM10 mil to expand its existing 99,910 sq ft factory in Johor.

The expansion will add another 43,600 sq ft of additional production lines, which will more than double the production output of pellets from nine tonnes per day to 25 tonnes. The expansion is expected to be completed by year-end.

Miaow Miaow produces over seven million packets of snacks a month. Backed by strong production capabilities, Ch’ng is placing his bets in reaching out to new prospects through its participation in Germany’s Anuga food fair this October.

The fair is touted as among the largest of its kind in the world.

This will be Miaow Miaow’s first ever participation at the Anuga food fair. Hence, it places high hopes of meeting potential partners from various markets.

“Getting the right distributor is key. We were able to do well in China and Saudi Arabia as we had a good distributor and partnership there.

“In markets where we do not have good partnerships, the performance tends to be very poor,” says Ch’ng.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest export market for Miaow Miaow, contributing over 20% to its export volume, while China comes at a close second.

Chink says the company’s growth over the years is mainly due to wise cash flow management and prudent spending.

Though its conservative ways have helped it weather many financial crises, the time has come for the company to embrace a dynamic marketplace.

“Other snack manufacturers performed well as they kept up with modern management styles and systems to improve.

“But we were slow to adapt to changing times and recognised our weakness there,” says Chink.

What makes a good snack?

Miaow Miaow Food Products Sdn Bhd assistant marketing manager Jason Ch’ng Chern Yih says its cuttlefish flavoured snack is widely popular in China, while the green pea flavour is a hit in Malaysia.

“The demand for our prawn flavoured snack is the highest compared to other flavours,” says Jason.

The company’s managing director Ch’ng Poh Tee says it takes a lot for a snack to be popular aside from taste alone.

The texture of the crunch also plays an important role in the popularity of its products.

“The manufacturing of pellets requires a high level of attention to quality control in order to achieve the right texture,” he says.

He adds that poor control over variables such as cooking temperature or ingredients could lead to a failed batch.

Snack food consumers these days are not only looking for taste and texture but are also paying close attention to the ingredients and how the snacks are produced.

Miaow Miaow will work with a foreign partner to launch a range of healthy snacks that do not contain monosodium glutamate.

This partner will then distribute them to a network of speciality stores focusing on healthy products.

“It is best to produce healthy snacks and stock them at speciality stores as opposed to introducing a range of healthy snacks under Miaow Miaow,” he reasons.

While Miaow Miaow will be handling the contract manufacturing for the partner, the recipe will be jointly developed and produced.

“Should we see success with this venture, we can persuade our other customers to give the new range a try under a different brand,” says Poh Tee. 

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 248.