In every business, you know an owner cares about their customers when it’s something close to their heart. For superfood company The Purest Co co-founder Justin Chiam, it began with a search for quality bird’s nest for his pregnant wife. As anyone who has ever cracked open a bottle of ready-to-drink (RTD) bird’s nest will know, most products end up containing scant amounts of actual bird’s nest. “Appalled” by the misinformation and obfuscating labelling of the brands he encountered, Chiam took a trip to Medan, Indonesia (one of the key bird’s nest-producing regions); as well as his uncle’s swiftlet houses in Sitiawan, Malaysia to understand more about the business. From that experience, he was inspired to start The Purest Co with co-founder and ex-schoolmate Stuart Ho, who’s now the COO of the company.

As with the product Chiam sought for his pregnant wife, The Purest Co. focuses on the transparency of their product. Unlike many RTD bird’s nest brands that label their product by total weight – sugar, water, and all – The Purest Co. lists the grammage of pure bird’s nest that goes into each bottle. With 40,000 bottles of bird’s nest sold in a span of 18 months, the proof is in the pudding. We catch up with the entrepreneurial pair.

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What was the biggest challenge faced in getting The Purest Co. up and running?

Justin: An initial challenge we faced was finding a supplier good enough to produce the standard of bird’s nest that we required. We needed to find a trusted supplier with enough experience, yet they also had to have enough flexibility to engage in research and development of new flavours with us in a modern way. 

Another challenge we faced was to convince our customers that the price they were paying for our products provided much better value than what they were getting from other brands. Although other brands may price themselves lower, the ingredients and amount of bird’s nest they put in may not justify that price. 

Left-right: Stuart Ho, Justin Chiam

Bird’s nest is quite a traditional product – is there ever the fear that younger audiences will consume it less and less? What’s your customer demographic like?

Stuart: That was something we were debating, early on in the business. With the influx of research in recent years, younger audiences are embracing this traditional product in a new light, one that is based on more tangible findings rather than anecdotal. 

Our current customer demographic mainly consists of working women aged 30 and above. With the younger crowd being more health-conscious, we are seeing more younger consumers willing to spend on wellness products and supplements. 

(Related: Superfoods have equals in traditional Asian ingredients)

Everyone’s probably asked you this already – but how has the pandemic impacted business?

Justin: Early on we saw supply shocks to our business when supply lines were disrupted,and that wasn’t great for inventory management and working capital.

Overall, we find that more and more people are increasingly concerned about their health during this period of time. There is also a growing interest in natural superfoods as customers consume it in complement with other health products.

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After running The Purest Co. for over a year as a direct-to-consumer business, is there space for brick and mortar retail in today’s market? 

Justin: We believe that there is still space for brick and mortar shops, just that it plays a less important role for some retail segments. I think the ideal scenario is being omni-channel, where brands interact with their customers across multiple mediums. For our brand, having a retail presence may be on the cards down the line, but it’s not in our immediate horizon.

Where would you like to take the brand next?

Stuart: We intend to expand on our offerings within our current categories, from our signature bird’s nest products to Snow Hashima tonics and collagen drinks. In the near future, we also expect to roll out a few different product lines as well, all under the health and wellness F&B product category.

Most of all, we are glad that we are able to provide both our customers and our loved ones a peace of mind when consuming these natural superfood products as their health and wellbeing are of utmost importance to us. 

More information on The Purest Co. at their website