Hey! Chips

Emily Chu’s Journey to Clean Eating and Creating Hey! Chips

Hey! Chips
Hey! Chips

Ms. Emily Chu, the visionary founder of Hey! Chips, traces her motivation to the bustling streets of Hong Kong where she grew up surrounded by snacks laden with chemicals and processed ingredients. Having moved to Singapore, she became increasingly aware of the pervasive presence of highly processed products in the market, prompting her to reflect on her own upbringing.

Her transformative journey took a significant turn when she relocated to New Zealand for work and pursued an MBA. In this fresh environment, she discovered a distinct food culture where people prioritised real, unprocessed food. The contrast between the thriving fast-food chains in most cities and the nearly deserted ones in New Zealand fascinated her. Emily observed a conscious choice for healthier eating habits, with an abundance of fresh produce and a preference for home-cooked meals.

Intrigued by the positive impact on her own health, Emily experienced a reduction in ailments like asthma after embracing a cleaner, healthier diet. Motivated by this personal transformation, she envisioned bringing the concept of clean eating back to Singapore.

Diving into the challenges of establishing Hey! Chips, Emily reflects on the early days marked by limited funds and a bootstrap startup ethos. The company’s inception relied on a combination of Emily’s personal savings and contributions from friends and family. Crafting a snack that stood apart from traditional FMCG products posed a unique hurdle, requiring extensive education to reshape consumer perceptions.

The financial constraints compelled the team to navigate every step cautiously. Unlike larger competitors, Hey! Chips couldn’t afford extravagant expenditures on celebrity endorsements or high-profile events. Each decision carried significant weight, as a misstep could have severe consequences for the fledgling venture. Emily’s resourceful approach and calculated moves became crucial in steering Hey! Chips through the intricate landscape of the snack industry.

Hey! Chips – A Trailblazer in Clean Snacking and Tech-Forward Innovation

Hey! Chips

Hey! Chips stands out in the competitive snack industry through its unique commitment to clean ingredients, a distinction so pronounced that it lacks a standardised product code for export. Ms. Emily Chu highlighted the rarity of competitors dealing exclusively with whole, unaltered ingredients, a hallmark of Hey! Chips’ approach to crafting healthier snack alternatives.

The first notable factor that sets Hey! Chips apart is its dedication to ingredient honesty. While other companies lean on flavourings and sugar to mask inferior produce, Hey! Chips takes a bold stance against such practices, resulting in a product that, though pricier, aims to offer discerning consumers a transparent and quality snacking option.

A second distinguishing factor lies in the startup culture embedded within Hey! Chips. In an industry often associated with low-tech approaches, the company embraces digital tools and technological advancements to enhance its operations. This adaptability, particularly evident during the COVID-19 period, positions Hey! Chips at the forefront of a new era in the food industry.

As Hey! Chips continues to challenge the status quo, its third differentiator emerges—the ability to attract talent globally. Leveraging a tech-savvy work environment, Chu expressed a desire to hire remote talents from different countries, recognizing the potential of diverse expertise to further augment the company’s innovative trajectory. In essence, Hey! Chips not only redefines the snack market with its unique product but also leads the industry in embracing technological advancements and fostering a dynamic startup culture.

Hey! Chips’ Resilience Amidst Pandemic and Global Turmoil

In the face of unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions, Hey! Chips exhibited remarkable adaptability. Chu recounted the initial upheaval during the lockdown in Singapore, describing a fluctuating grocery market with surges and lulls in demand. Notably, the tail end of pandemic restrictions brought a significant uptick in orders, aligning with a broader trend of increased interest in home-based consumption.

Reflecting on the past two years, Chu noted a remarkable 200% to 300% annual revenue growth, propelled by unexpected surges in demand. The shift towards remote work and a surge in home-based snacking played in Hey! Chips’ favour, with the company receiving requests for gift boxes and witnessing a rise in demand for healthy snacks. However, Chu acknowledged the current hurdles post-pandemic, including global inflation and geopolitical tensions impacting international expansion efforts. Ms. Emily Chu candidly admitted the ongoing economic challenges, emphasising the delicate balance Hey! Chips faces as they strive to expand in a complex global climate.

Sourcing Perfection – The Hey! Chips Approach to Ingredient Selection

Hey! Chips
Hey! Chips

Ms. Emily Chu, the visionary behind Hey! Chips emphasised the paramount importance of ingredients in their delectable snacks. Operating on the belief that taste reigns supreme, the company meticulously sources fruits from the southern regions and vegetables from the cooler northern parts of Thailand. Chu revealed a key secret to their success: a rigorous pre-production process involving small batches of actual fruits and veggies from partner farmers. This stringent taste test ensures the perfect balance, considering factors such as fibre levels that determine the crispiness of veggie chips. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Hey! Chips invests a month in each batch, setting them apart from competitors and justifying their premium pricing.

Crossing Borders – Hey! Chips’ Strategic Entry into Hong Kong

In a strategic move rooted in Ms. Emily Chu’s ties to Hong Kong, Hey! Chips expanded into the city, marking their first international venture in partnership with Organic Plus. Chu underscored the similarities between the Hong Kong and Singapore markets, which allowed for a replication of successful strategies. The company initiated a series of events and pop-ups, mirroring their approach in Singapore’s early years.

To navigate the unique cultural nuances of Hong Kong, Hey! Chips appointed an experienced business development lead to establish connections with retailers and engage in key events. Chu acknowledged the cultural distinctions, noting that Hong Kong consumers are more cost-conscious and discerning, necessitating a transparent and honest marketing approach. This aligns seamlessly with Hey! Chips’ commitment to authenticity, evident in the straightforward ingredient information displayed on their packaging.

Recognizing the competitive advertising landscape in Hong Kong, Hey! Chips strategically leveraged nearly 100 influencers, including prominent figures, to promote the brand and penetrate the market. This grassroots, influencer-driven strategy proved highly effective in a market where trust is earned through genuine engagement.

Hey! Chips’ tailored approach to the Hong Kong market reflects a blend of successful Singaporean strategies with nuanced adjustments, emphasising the company’s adaptability and commitment to connecting authentically with diverse audiences.

Hey! Chips’ Dual Commitment to Community through Nurturing Health and Empowering Farmers

Hey! Chips

At the heart of Hey! Chips’ mission lies a dual commitment: promoting healthy snacking habits and uplifting local farmers. Ms. Emily Chu passionately expressed the company’s dedication to redefining snack choices for Singaporeans, emphasising the need for people to be conscious of hidden sugars and sodium in conventional snacks. Through engaging pop-up events and storytelling, Hey! Chips aims to raise awareness about nutrition labels, encouraging consumers to make informed choices for their well-being.

In parallel, Hey! Chips champions fair trade by directly sourcing from local farmers, a decision driven by the desire to ensure fair compensation and eliminate intermediary layers that often diminish farmers’ income. Chu shed light on the global decline in farmers’ income despite rising costs, emphasising Hey! Chips’ commitment to bucking this trend. By leveraging technology to connect with farmers directly, the company ensures quality control, transparency, and a direct line to customers, eradicating uncertainties associated with unknown sources.

Beyond the economic impact, Hey! Chips’ direct sourcing strategy contributes to a safer food ecosystem. Chu highlighted the occasional challenges stemming from untraceable sources that can lead to significant recalls and even countrywide bans. Hey! Chips is on a mission to transform this landscape by promoting transparency and fostering a holistic approach to food sourcing, all while supporting farmers in their quest for fair compensation and recognition.

Hey! Chips Hits Shelves – A Milestone Achievement and Future Aspirations

Hey! Chips

In a momentous achievement, Hey! Chips has successfully secured shelf space in 70 outlets of local supermarkets, including FairPrice Finest and CS Fresh Cold Storage. Ms. Emily Chu expressed her excitement about this significant milestone for the five-year-old company. This development marks a pivotal moment for Hey! Chips, a bootstrapped company that has steadily grown and is now accessible in mainstream retail spaces.

Chu acknowledged the challenges associated with breaking into supermarkets, citing the high costs involved in securing listings and retail space. For loyal followers who have been tracking Hey! Chips’ journey, this news is undoubtedly groundbreaking, offering the convenience of picking up the brand’s snacks directly from nearby supermarkets.

While the company has been on supermarket shelves for approximately four to five weeks, Chu emphasised the ongoing need for support to ensure a sustained presence. This move from e-commerce to traditional retail represents a shift in accessibility and consumer experience, aligning with Hey! Chips’ mission to make healthy snacking readily available to a broader audience.

Reflecting on the journey, Chu acknowledged the crucial support from long-time distributors like Organic Plus in entering other markets. However, breaking into supermarkets with a new product category presented unique challenges. Despite the uphill battle, Hey! Chips is thrilled to have successfully navigated this terrain, and Chu invites continued support to prolong their presence on supermarket shelves. This achievement not only reflects Hey! Chips’ growth but also signals a promising future as they continue to redefine the landscape of healthy snacking.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Hey! Chips
Hey! Chips Team

For those aspiring entrepreneurs, Ms. Emily offers these wise words:

We have to be able to roll up our sleeves and do anything necessary in the early stage. As a startup, roles extend far beyond the typical CEO duties, earning the title of ‘Chief Everything Officer.’ This means being involved in everything from cleaning and tech tasks to design, marketing, sales, and HR; You struggle across a lot of roles, and even when you start hiring your first team, you can’t really expect your pioneering team to do the same because they’re not in that position. So that mindset has to be that you are ready to do anything possible and you have to stop having the mindset that, “Oh, maybe I can pay someone to do this or that.” Yes, you can. But it will not be realistic because of the number of different things, and different voices that you have in the company. If someone wants to start a business, you have to be mentally prepared for that.

Building a business is a journey. It really takes time. So if you don’t have that mindset, you might give up very easily.

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