Due to the rapid advances in deep tech and a growing number of conscious consumers, it probably won’t be long before we can grow all our food in labs, tailored to our genome to help us live to 200. However, until then, we need good food.
Ow Yau Png’s primary motivation for co-founding Hoow Foods in 2018 with three fellow alumni from the National University of Singapore was to create products that those with pre-existing health issues like diabetes could enjoy. Soon he began to focus on making sure the company’s products were not only nutritionally superior but also sustainably and ethically made.
These currently include low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar ice cream brand Callery’s, healthier, instant versions of Killiney Kopitiam’s popular drinks like Premium Milk Tea and Premium White Coffee products, and even a plant-based egg substitute called Hegg. He’s also launching a probiotic coffee using a special strain engineered to withstand boiling temperatures. “We didn’t want to create something that already exists and then just offer it in another flavour. That would just be marketing,” says Ow. “We want our products to intrigue – that’s our way of educating the masses.”
Education is Ow’s constant challenge. “In this part of the world, eating healthily is not as big a priority as it is elsewhere. People here are more cost-sensitive, and they need their food to taste good,” he says. Then how can he convince those who believe that healthier – especially high-tech – foods are only available to those who can pay their premiums? “People have to see the value of healthier food to pay for it,” he admits. “The price of cars here is among the highest in the world, but some will still buy them because they value the brand or the lifestyle that comes with owning one.”
Ow says it will take time because a lack of demand leads to a lack of supply, which causes the price of healthy alternatives to rise. However, he is not worried, since many others share the same dream. Hoow Foods raised $3 million earlier this year in a pre-Series A funding led by Singapore- based venture firm Farquhar VC.
Ow isn’t just optimistic about the future of food. In his opinion, moving to a “regenerative” form of consumption is a natural progression. “In other words, the food we eat won’t just replenish our bodies, but also the world in the sense of business and sustainability,” he says, explaining how the industry and consumers will gravitate towards fair trade values.
“We used to be drawn to marketing hype without caring about how a product was sourced, made, and sold. As long as it tasted good and felt right, we bought it,” he continues. “But all that is about to change. Consumers today are more sophisticated. They want to know how their choices will affect the environment.”
JOHN CHENG ON WHY HE PICKED OW YAU PNG
“Yau Png is a force to be reckoned with. His background in pharmaceuticals has helped him shape his business in food for the betterment of human health. I’m inspired by his passion and look forward to seeing what he can achieve and how he can make food healthier and accessible while maintaining its taste.”
Listen in to Ow Yau Png on Money FM 89.3. His recent interview on Your Money with Michelle Martin is part of an ongoing The Peak x Money FM special that features the next generation of thought and business leaders.