Ice cream-lovers Kong Chung Ang and his wife Daisy Han started making homemade ice cream in 2013 because they were disappointed with the limited flavour variety and the quality of ice cream available locally.
With full-time jobs, they only had the weekends to experiment with the texture and flavour profiles within the perimeters of their kitchen.
Four years on, after garnering positive feedback from tasters comprising their family and friends, the duo now rents a central kitchen to supply more than 10 flavours to Supa Save and numerous cafes around the country.
Kong and Han — founders and owners of Happy Cream & Co — say their aim is to obtain the best ingredients they can find in Brunei and incorporate them into their ice cream.
CHURNING A YEARNING
Kong says it was in 2013 while his wife was pursuing further studies in Australia, that she chanced upon an Australian-made ice cream machine which she decided to bring back to Brunei.
To their surprise, during their very first attempt making ice cream that year, the texture turned out great and the outcome was comparable to that of established brands.
Kong says they diligently carried out research and development (R&D) and tested new flavour profiles.
“My wife is a big fan of teh tarik and milk tea. So she thought, ‘why not have a local milk tea or teh tarik ice cream?’ After months of R&D with tea leaves and methods… finally we managed to get [it right] and it amazed us. Up until today, our teh tarik ice cream is one of our favourites,” he says.
Following rave reviews from family and friends, the couple decided to quit their day jobs and pursue ice cream-making as a full-time business.
BRUNEI FRUITS AND MADAGASCAR BEANS
On September 30, 2015, the ice cream-churning duo received their first paying customer. “It was one of our friends who had tasted our product and asked us when we were going to start our business. He said he wanted to support us by actually buying one of the ice creams,” Kong says.
At the time they introduced eight flavours, including teh tarik, earl grey, salted caramel and matcha.
As time passed, Kong says they wanted to develop more variety and had a particular interest in experimenting with local flavours.
“We wanted to capture the local market because we want Happy Cream & Co to be a Bruneian brand. Today, we have close to 20 flavours [developed] enough to bring to our customers. New flavours include bandung, Horlicks and flavours incorporating seasonal fruits like mangoes and dragonfruit,” he says.
The 32-year-old says their main goal is to source the finest ingredients within Brunei for their ice creams. “Currently apart from a few exotic ingredients like the vanilla beans, which we source from Madagascar, the rest of our ingredients are [readily available in] Brunei.”
Kong recalls taking part in numerous pop-ups and events around the country to sell their ice cream. After making their ice cream at home and selling them on Instagram for a while, Kong and his wife decided they wanted the brand to grow bigger and become halal-certified.
“We decided to rent a place as a central kitchen for ice cream-making, with a goal in mind to supply our ice cream to Supa Save and cafés,” he says.
ON A FLURRY OF SALES
During the early days, the emphasis wasn’t on packaging as they focused on flavour, and the couple sold their ice cream in nondescript containers without any design.
They soon realised they wanted to take their product’s packaging to the next level and make information about the product easily visible for their consumers. That was when Han worked with a designer to perfect their packaging for both their mini-tubs and pint products.
Kong says it was with the help and support of Darussalam Enterprise (DARE), who organised a pitching session to various supermarkets, that their dream came true.
About a month ago, Kong says they managed to strike a deal with Supa Save.
For their supermarket debut, Happy Cream & Co stocked 96 pints and 116 mini-tubs of ice-cream at Supa Save. A week later, only 12 pints and 20 mini-tubs are left.
“We are expecting to restock the shelves there every two weeks, but at this rate, it seems like we have to do it every week,” he says.
A HOUSEHOLD BRAND AND BEYOND
“Happy Cream & Co is like our baby. We started on a very small scale and looking back now to why we started this business, we [have been able to] introduce more flavours and premium quality ice cream to Brunei,” he says.
“We wanted to show that there is quality ice cream made by Bruneians for Bruneians.”
Recently the couple opened up an ice cream kiosk in The Mall, Gadong. “We are very blessed and lucky that after two years, we have achieved having a scoop shop and are supplying to Supa Save.”
“For us, this is just the beginning, because sustaining the business is more important than starting it. Hopefully, we can become a household brand that Bruneians will place their trust in and for us to win their hearts,” says Kong.
While Kong says plans are in the pipeline to supply their ice cream to neighbouring countries, they want to make sure they capture the Bruneian market first and carry out all testing requirements on their product in Brunei.
“We would love to help bring Brunei to the next level through Happy Cream & Co.”