How Now Bright Cow ? Adventures in Dairy & Gelato!
Batik&Bubbles is always on the look out, especially when it comes to learning more about the growing trend for artisanal gourmet food brands here in Malaysia. We approached fresh milk producers Bright Cow and Jersey Jack Gelato to find out their take on their brands and have a taste of some of their simply delicious niche and artisanal products!
So let's introduce Bala Nair and Paul Foster, who are the Malaysian-British business duo behind Bright Cow, a dairy producer that was founded in Malaysia back in 2011. They are pioneers in their own right by being the first Malaysian company offering raw unpasteurised milk to the market.
I have known both Bala and Paul for over 10 years now and have admired their entrepreneurial spirit in leaving the fast paced world of IT consultancy to where they are now; full fledged farmers and dairy producers. Throughout all these years, they have remained close friends and business partners, with a long-lasting symbiotic relationship which seems to bode them very well.
Yiga and I visited Bala and Paul at their HQ and processing factory in Ara Damansara, which houses the operations and processing of all their dairy products.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): Bala & Paul, tell us a little bit about your background and how it led you to start Bright Cow?
Paul: Bala and I met here in Malaysia back in 1997, almost 20 years ago, when we were both working for a UK based SAP consultancy. We became fast friends and colleagues and since then have been working together in a couple of SAP consultancy ventures. We eventually sold our company and started Bright Cow in 2011. It was a conscious decision to leave the IT industry as we were looking at enjoying a more slow-paced wholesome way of life. Personally, farming seemed the ideal avenue to venture into as it involved the outdoors which has always been one of my preferred environments.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): That seems like a huge career change, why did you choose to go into dairy production?
Bala: Yes it was! Over the years, there were many comments from expatriate friends or colleagues complaining that the milk in Malaysia was not up to standard. At that time in 2010, the milk industry was very different to what it is today, with 95% of its products mainly imported from abroad. The only milk available was either reconstituted or of a frozen and powdered form. We did alot of research about it beforehand and decided that dairy was the way to go as there was definitely a huge market for it in Malaysia.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): What made you decide to make unpasteurized milk?
Bala: Unpasteurized milk or "raw" milk as we prefer to call it, is the freshest and purest form of milk and our goal has always been to deliver this type of niche product to customers. We find that there is a small but growing, highly-educated group of people who are moving away from processed food and are looking for more natural and nutritious products to consume.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): Tell us about your product line?
Paul: We currently have raw milk, pasteurized milk and Paneer cheese. However, we have teamed up with Romani foods, an Italian cheesemaker, by using their processing facility and are now churning out products such as mozzarella , ricotta cheese and yoghurt . Furthermore, we not only sell to customers directly in supermarkets and through our delivery service but also to cafes and restaurants. We are proud to have our dairy products exclusively used at farm-to-table restaurants such as Sitka, Roost , Kitchen Table and Dewakan. We also have a strong partnership with Starbucks Coffee to whom we sell our milk and other dairy items such as their granola yoghurt cups.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): We understand you have a delivery service, can you explain to us how it works?
Paul: Yes, we can deliver directly to customers up to twice a week. Customers can order online or by calling us (see below for more info). The minimum purchase is 2 items and we only charge a nominal delivery fee of RM 1.00 per order! We currently only deliver to the Klang Valley but we do sometimes get orders in Penang.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): Any plans to expand into other areas beside, milk, yoghurt and paneer cheese?
Bala: Yes, we do have plans to make cream, yoghurt drinks and kefir. There is also a possibility of making coffee drinks on the go. Although we are small in size, we are constantly evolving ourselves by constantly producing a diverse range of products for other food-related businesses. In fact, we are very keen to work with other food-related businesses who are on the lookout for making high quality dairy products but don't have the facility to do so.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): Please tell us about your team. How many staff do you have on the farm and at your processing facility and operations?
Bala: We currently have 12 workers on our farm, 12 in our processing facility and 21 in our operations team. We also have 170 cows or "girls" as we refer to them who are milked daily at 6am each morning. We are very fortunate to have an amazing farm manager who is very disciplined in the running of the farm. He ensures that the cows are well looked after at all times and that everything is kept in order.
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): Any words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to change their careers and venture into their own business?
Bala: Before you start any type of venture, it is really important to understand and do plenty of research on what your intended business is all about. For us, we didn't realize how different it is to look after such big animals such as cows when compared to looking after something easy like domestic animals. It's definitely an entire different landscape. However on the plus side, selling the dairy products is not very different to selling SAP so for us that was not such a challenge.
Furthermore, when entering a business partnership with someone it is beneficial that the business bond between the partners is very strong. Paul and I have endured various ups and downs which are normal for any business but throughout it all our relationship has remained formidable. It's important to be prepared to go through difficult periods where you will face unexpected challenges, bearing that in mind, you should be strong enough to face anything.
After our meeting with Paul and Bala, we were given some goodies to take home and try. This included mozzarella, ricotta, scarmorza and paneer cheese, greek yoghurt and vanilla flavoured yogurt. What a treat! We managed to finish it all off within days .
I made a simple caprese salad for lunch one day using the Bright Cow mozzarella cheese and on another occasion a tzatziki style salad to go with a curry dish for dinner. Scrumptious! We loved the freshness and pureness of the cheeses which had a clean and unsalted taste which was pure pleasure to eat! The kids went gaga over the vanilla yoghurt which was absolutely delicious.
Curious to try out more of Bright Cow's end product, Yiga and I then visited artisan gelato maker, Jersey Jack Gelato to have a taste of their gelato which is exclusively made from Bright Cow's jersey milk. We brought along the kids who acted as our grand master gelato tasters of course!
Anthony Gowler, the founder of Jersey Jack Gelato is from the United Kingdom and has lived in Malaysia for many years. He decided to start Jersey Jack Gelato back in 2014 when his friend, Paul Foster from Bright Cow, approached him with the idea. Anthony or Tony as I know him, was a former engineer and has now embraced the world of artisanal gelato making.
He kindly took us around his kitchen and store, showing us all the machines he uses for making his gelatos and sorbets. We all were in awe at the sight of seeing stacks of gelatos lined up in his freezer. The gelatos are available to take home in tamper proof 2.5 litre tubs.
On top of that, Jersey Jack Gelato have these rather fetching mobile tricycles that have been fashioned in a vintage Victorian style. These mobile tricycles can be found at major touristic hotspots around the city selling gelato. Furthermore, these mobile wonders can be hired out for special events, corporate dinners and children's parties. According to Tony, each tricycle can hold up to 9 flavours which means a total of 250 servings! Alternatively, for smaller scale events such as kids parties you can also have 9 flavours and be charged RM 10 per scoop with a minimum of 50 scoops.
I can certainly see the value of having one of these tricycles at an outdoor party, how cool would that be in the current sweltering heatwave we are enduring here in KL!
There are over 40 flavours available such as Belgian chocolate and salted caramel flavours on offer but besides that, we were intrigued by one of a kind flavours such as Durian sorbet and Chili, Ginger and Lemongrass gelatos, so we had to give those a try!
The kids being kids were of course ecstatic at having free reign over trying out all the various flavours! Sean went for the Belgian chocolate and Isabelle for the Mango sorbet whereas we adults went for more adventurous flavours! Yiga loved the Durian sorbet which is apparently from the D24 batch ( a premium hybrid version of the durian) while I tried the rather delectable Amarena cherry.
Thanks again to Bright Cow and Jersey Jack for letting us invade your premises! We learned so much about raw milk, the interesting and endless possibilities of dairy products that can be created from high quality sources of fresh milk. We are so glad that companies like yours are adopting a more wholesome and different approach to food. We certainly look forward to hear more about your endeavours!
To stand a chance to take home some of Bright Cow's natural and wholesome goodies do check out our contest coming up very soon on our Facebook page here.
For more info on Bright Cow visit www.bright-cow.com where you can purchase their products. You can also take advantage of their home delivery service here or call 03-7734 4255.
Jersey Jack Gelato outlet is located at 49, Jln Barangan off Bukit Bintang. Their website is at www.jerseyjackgelato.com or call (03) 2110 3346. Jersey Jack gelato is available for take-aways and its Mobile Tricycles can be rented out for special events and children's parties!