Exclusive Interview with Lau Kum Yee, Co-founder & CEO of Nuvojoy

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Nuvojoy is set up by 2 sisters, Lau Kum Yee and Lau Seok Yee who are passionate about re-fashioning the way we enjoy our local Asian delights. Lau Kum Yee is the Co-founder & CEO of Nuvojoy and together with her sister, Lau Seok Yee who oversees Nuvojoy’s financial and operational matters, have spent more than 5 years to meticulously develop and clinically test Nuvojoy’s range of low GI Asian products.

The story of Nuvojoy started with a personal incident by the founders, their father suffered a bad fall and was hospitalized for an extended period during which they learnt about the kinds of food that are served to patients, including supplement drinks that tend to be sweet, with metallic after-taste, artifically flavoured or milky – not exactly suitable for Asian taste buds. The sisters are concerned about their father’s poor appetite while he was hospitalised and when he was recuperating after being discharged. They wondered if other patients were similarly affected. They began to work on developing clinically-tested low glycemic index (GI) Asian desserts and premixes, such as soy pudding, kueh bahulu, kueh lapis, and madeleine cake. Research has proven that a healthy low-GI diet can help to manage our blood glucose levels, reduce blood cholesterol levels, maintain a healthy weight, improve heart health, provide sustainable energy and improved mental performance.

Our Parenting World – OPW Media team is pleased to be able to interview Lau Kum Yee, Co-founder & CEO of Nuvojoy where she shared more about her company and products with us. 

Exclusive Interview with Lau Kum Yee, Co-founder & CEO of Nuvojoy

1. Please share with us more about your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

During my Junior College days, I studied Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Mathematics in preparation for a career in Medicine.  However, near the end of JC1, I had the chance to study in the USA.  Reading Medicine in the USA would take 8 years at least with 4 years of pre-medicine (a basic degree) and then a Medicine degree. With my love for science and food, I picked Food Science as a major and have enjoyed this discipline since. 

I taught Food Science and Technology in Temasek Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic over the last 19 years.  Being a lecturer and having the opportunity to design and lead courses in these polytechnics are in line with my love for lifelong learning. Over the years, I have grown more comfortable with the technology aspect of the food industry and I would love to explore the business aspect of it.  To kickstart this learning journey, I had to learn a lot of business basics. I started by signing up for Platform E courses to pick up the key fundamentals of being an entrepreneur and learning about the different tools required to run a company. Now, I am hoping to put them into practice.

2. What inspired you to set up Nuvojoy and how did you start up your business?

A couple of years back, my father had a bad fall, which required him to be hospitalized for an extended period of time. Through his recovery, my siblings and I learned a lot about the dietary options available for those who are hospitalized. This includes the kinds of food and supplements that are served in the hospitals to complement a patient’s recovery.  What I felt was that some of these options, as well as healthy foods available in the market, were not suitable for the Asian palette. In addition, the public has the notion that healthy food is not always tasty. And I disagree! It was then when I also realized that we were not the only ones facing this problem – many of the health foods we see today tend to be for the Western palate and might not always be suitable to satisfy our Asian taste buds. So, I decided to embark on this challenge and find a way to help people enjoy food that is both healthy and tasty, while bringing joy to those worried about their health.

To start off, I roped in my sister, Seok Yee, for her keen business sense. She has a background working in the financial industry and has been an amazing help to me in terms of the financial and administrative portion of the business. To build up the team, we hired a food technologist to support us in the development of new and innovative food products for the market. We are also very fortunate to have a strong support system of friends and family that have been pivotal in keeping us motivated. They have also been giving us useful advice whenever we are in need of their help.

3. What are the challenges you faced when setting up Nuvojoy and how did you overcome them?

While our products are clinically-tested to be low in Glycemic Index (GI), the general public might not be familiar with the concept of GI. One of our key challenges was educating the public and raising awareness on this issue. However, the rallying calls on the War against Diabetes by the Health Promotion Board and the Government has helped tremendously in this area. Other key trends, such as a low carbohydrate lifestyle or a Keto lifestyle, have also generated more interest in low GI foods.

Another key challenge was getting our supply chain ramped up to production scale. Fortunately, the networks I built through my career became instrumental as I approached various partners I had previously worked with. I was lucky to find a partner that was willing to assist me in the initial production, despite the smaller batches.

We are always experimenting with new products, new flavours, new formats, and having flexible production lines are essential. Thankfully, we have got that sorted out and we are excited for our upcoming product launches.

4. Can you share with us more about your products and how they are beneficial to our health?

We currently have two products in the market, mainly our Soy Pudding (3 varieties – Classic, No Refined Sugars (NRS) and Vegan) and Kueh Lapis. All our products are clinically-tested to be low in GI, which translates to a slow release of sugars into the bloodstream, as compared to a spike in blood glucose levels after consumption of the recommended servings size. 

Low GI foods may be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of a number of chronic diseases. A low GI diet may directly or indirectly influence many physiological processes which are relevant to health and performance, including physical activity, cognitive function, appetite regulation and energy balance.

A low GI diet:

  • Lowers the risk of diabetes
  • Lowers the risk of heart diseases
  • Reduces blood cholesterol level
  • Complements weight control

5. How do you differentiate your products from other healthy and low GI products in the market?

Many of the products in the market are lower in fat, lower in sugar, lower in salt etc.  I am happy to see more of these variations in the market as they provide consumers with more choices.

While there are low GI products available in the market as well, they tend to be staple items like bread and rice.  When looking for desserts that would satisfy the Asian palette, the options are limited. Desserts themselves tend to be high in sugar and fat, but we would like to reward ourselves with these foods every now and then. The big question is how can we enjoy comfort foods like desserts in a healthy way?  I believe that this could be one of the key challenges resulting in limited low GI alternatives for desserts. We want to plug this gap in the market by working towards providing healthier desserts and snacks that do not have to compromise on the taste factor.

All the above images credit to Lau Kum Yee and Nuvojoy

6. What’s your advice for those who want to start their own business? What preparation work and mindset do they need to have?

Well, I’m still trying to figure that out! I have only just started my entrepreneurial journey and still have a lot to learn.. However, in the past few months, it has already been a fruitful experience. From what I have learnt in my short time as an entrepreneur, these are some of the things I would say –

  • Start with something you are both good at and passionate about
  • Be willing to get on the ground and get your hands dirty
  • Resilience is key and having a positive mindset is critical

There are always tough times as an entrepreneur, even more so with the Covid-19 situation!

7. Any tips on how one can be a successful entrepreneur and succeed in the competitive market?

I would say we’re still working on it! Nuvojoy still has a very long runway and ambitions to fill.  What has been really important so far is the advice and support from our families and friends.

8. How do you create and increase your brand awareness and promote your products to the market?

With the permeation of technology in society, I think it is important to be present on social media (e.g. Instagram and Facebook) to reach out to the wider audience. Aside from that, we actively participate in conventions and fairs to meet like-minded people in the community and share more about our products.

Another thing I have learnt is to listen to our customers. We put a huge emphasis on being close to our customers and knowing them. We take feedback and comments from our customers very seriously and like to adapt or tweak our products to appeal to the wider audience. This was critical in the initial phases of our launch and we relied heavily on the feedback given by customers to redesign our products to their liking.

A great example would be our first product – Soy Pudding.  We started off with our Classic Soy Pudding.  Through our conversations with our customers, we realised that young parents are concerned about their children’s sugar intake. This drove us to create the No Refined Sugar Soy Pudding for their children. For the seniors, we realised through our conversations that some of them are lactose intolerant. To help them enjoy our product, we removed the milk component of our Soy Pudding and made a plant-based version – our Vegan Soy Pudding! 

9. Can you share some of your favourite dishes that you created using your products?

Personally, I like to add fresh fruits to the soy pudding. This increases both the fiber and vitamin content of the dessert. Another favourite of mine is to pour the soy pudding over fruit juice or fruit puree to create a lovely marbling effect. It’s delicious and looks good!

10. Lastly, what do you see for your business in the next 5 years and does it include any plans for expansion?

With the current situation of Covid-19, there will be an inevitable shift in the way of life for most of us.  This includes ensuring that we have a strong immune system and a healthy lifestyle. This has driven people to be more aware of their lifestyle choices, by exercising more and eating healthily. We are happy to see that our products are able to support and complement this lifestyle, offering a healthy and tasty dessert for the whole family to enjoy.

As for our 5-year plan, we are hoping to expand our product offering and overseas. We hope to continue supporting our customers in their pursuit for a healthy lifestyle and to constantly reinvent the products as taste and preferences change.

Thank you Lau Kum Yee for taking our interview!

To find out more about Nuvojoy and its range of products, please visit https://www.nuvojoy.com/

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