The food of products, both local and foreign, that confrontconsumers these days has made it very di cult for companiesand entrepreneurs to o er something really new and di erent.Yet di erentiation continues, with increasing importance, to
be the key to success in the marketplace; the winners arethose who recognize a product as something out of the ordinary andcapture the popularity of the crowd. Young entrepreneur PimmadaPattanapratyapong is one such winner. She owes her success to aspark of inspiration generated by – of all things – a plate of discardedshrimps’ chins. From it was born her “Okusno fried shrimp chins snack”.
“This business originated from curiosity,”she revealed. “One day at the dining table with my mother, I noticed there were a lot of shrimp chins left over. I thought we should try to make some use of them.
“My brother and I tried every means of processing them and found that grilling them gave the best result.”
Pimmada – better known by her nick name Pair – found a way to make a delicious snack from a raw material that was hitherto throw-away waste from countless dining tables. The chins – which Pair prefers to call “shrimps’ chins” – are also a by-product used by shrimp producers to make animal feed. Yet her experiments found that fried shrimps’ chins were not only delicious, but also rich in calcium, delivering 70 per cent calcium from a 24-gram pack – equivalent to two small boxes of milk.
She proudly claims that her Okusno fried shrimp chins snack is not only the first of its kind in Thailand, but also in the world.In a way, it de nes the term “different”.
Her snack made Pair last year’s winner of “SME Tee Tak 2015”, a popular TV program that gathered 200 small and medium-sized enterprises to present their business models and ideas in a bid for a top award. Yet Pair had neither experience in doing business or knowledge of the food industry. She began as a graphic design graduate from Thammasat University’sFaculty of Journalism. Casting around to build a foundation for her career, Pair went to Slovenia to become an intern graphic designer. But the life of a salaried worker did not appeal, so when her internship finished, she returned to Thailand and began searching for a business to start.
That was when she became intrigued by that plate of shrimps’ chins. Recalling her time in Slovenia, she decided her snack should be called “Okusno” – a Slovenian word meaning delicious. She started her business when she was only 25, with a little over Bt100,000 in capital and her two younger brothers by her side – one of them still studying in college.
Less than two years later, her Okusno fried shrimp chins snack is available at SiamParagon, The Mall, Tops Supermarkets, Se-Ed book stores and many other modern trade outlets. It is also exported to three or four overseas markets and will be launched in7-Eleven convenience stores in the middle of 2016.
Customers in mind from the start
Pair began her business by thinking rst of her targeted customers, and her initial belief was that they would be foreign tourists. So she began by visiting SiamParagon, – a top tourist spot – to observe the products on supermarket shelves. The design for Okusno’s packaging soon fell into place: it would have a white background since no other snack products used white packages.
To sell in the big stores, Pair knew that her product rst had to win Food andDrug Administration certification. Using the Internet and seeking advice from university professors, she learned all the necessary techniques to start her factory from scratch. Within a couple of months she got “the nod” from the FDA, and armed with a unique product in carefully designed packaging, she walked boldly into SiamParagon. Thus, in January 2015, Okusno shrimps’ chins snacks began making their rst inroads into the Bangkok market.
Sales were not very strong in the first months. Pair soon realized that the she difference of her products demanded that they be offered to consumers in free taste tests. She and her brothers set up a booth in front of the store and personally handed samples to shoppers. Within a short while,sales multiplied three or four times.
“We discovered that setting up a booth was good because consumers could test our products. Since our snack was new,taste testing was important,” she said.
With all else running to plan, Pair had a stroke of good luck. After making her debut at Siam Paragon, she was asked by friends if she would like to share their exhibition space at THAIFEX, the premier international food fair in Bangkok. Thanks to the good location of her booth, the unique name and diference of her product and her readiness to o er samples to visitors,Okusno was a big hit at THAIFEX.
“People were curious when they sawour sign saying ‘the rst shrimp’s chin snack.’About 80 per cent of the people who triedour snack, bought it. We sold very well and depleted our factory’s stocks,” she said.
Okusno also attracted overseas buyers at THAIFEX. But the real breakthrough came when Workpoint Entertainment, producer of SME Tee Tak 2015, also noticed Okusno at the fair and asked Pair to join in the TV show. The show was a popular one, which went to air over a couple of months. WhenPair won the top award, Okusno became a well-known snack among Thai consumers around the country. The TV exposure spared Pair the need to invest heavily in advertising. Such costs are usually huge for players in the snack industry. Moreover,the stories of her success were published and broadcast by many media outlets following the contest.
Digital technologies ease market penetration
The evolutio of social media and electronic commerce has also helped to ease Okusno’s entry into a market that was
hitherto dominated by distributors,wholesalers and retail stores. Pair says 25 per cent of Okusno’s sales are currently derived from online sales, with orders placed directly by end-consumers who then receive their consignments byEMS mail services.
Despite its small size and the fact that it has been operating for less than two years, Okusno derives another 20 per cent of its sales from exports. The remaining55 per cent comes from modern trade channels, including Siam Paragon, TheMall, Emquartier and other Mall Group outlets, some retail stores, and all of the 500branches of SE-Ed bookstores around the country, many of them located in leading hypermarkets and department stores such as Big-C and Tesco Lotus.
Pair said Okusno would focus one expanding its distribution channels this year and would begin to o er its snack at7-Eleven convenience stores in Bangkok and the metropolitan area in May. The product for 7-Eleven will have a new brand: “Kang Kung”, meaning shrimp’s chin, making it easier for mass consumers to recognize. It will also be sold in smaller packages ata lower price of Bt20 per pack.
Having recently doubled her company’s reduction capacity, Pair is setting her sights on expanding Okusno’s online and xport sales. The rm is negotiating with many potential overseas customers, and is currently shipping to Hong Kong, Laos,Cambodia and Singapore.
With the observation that the domestic market is quite small when compared to vast global markets, Pair expects that more than half of Okusno’s sales will be made in overseas markets within two or three years.
“Foreigners may see more value in Okusno, especially in some countriesthat have no seafoods. Thanks to our halal certi cate, we can also tap Muslim consumers who represent one-third of theworld’s populations,” she said.
The fact that Thailand is the world’sthird-largest shrimp exporting country givesThai producers like Okusno a comparative advantage in world markets because of theabundant supply of raw materials, she said.
Asked to name the key factors for succeeding in business today, Pairchose di erentiation and determination.“Di erentiation is important because it makes your product or service outstanding.Nevertheless, everything depends on execution. When you face problems, you must ask yourself if you are making theutmost e ort, and then go beyond that point,” she said.
Meanwhile, Pair believes that the government could help SMEs by organizing.
Thank you, Thaifex 2016 Book
"Thailand Food, Beverage & Agricultural Product Directory: A Buyers’ Guide 2016"