Author's blurb: Mamee was one of my favorite snacks even as a child, until they removed the spice powder (sobs). I knew then that the joy of my days of shaking packages was over … for a good cause.
Recently, Mamee worked with Tealive to bring a new product called Spicy Mi Boba to the market. (What we discussed here on our sister site DiscoverKL.)
It was definitely an awkward combination, but it's not uncommon to have this one here in Malaysia as we've had weird combinations similar to Maggi Kari Milo, Nasi Lemak ice cream, Ghost Pepper Cola, etc.
As household name as it is today, Mamee-Double Decker (M) Sdn Bhd has been for over four decades and has had a long and arduous journey to get to where they are today.
Before venturing into this business, Datuk Pang shared with The Star that he used to be a used car dealer until his friend persuaded him to enter the instant noodle market.
Datuk Pang Chin Hin, founder of Mamee / Photo credit: Sally Samsaiman
Even though Datuk Pang Chin Hin had no prior knowledge or skills, he teamed up with his friend, who provided financial support and the assurance that instant noodles sell better than used cars.
So Datuk Pang prepared his son Tan Sri Pang Tee Chew for this business by sending him to Japan to continue his studies and work in one of the leading instant noodle factories there.
There Tan Sri Pang was trained in food processing, especially in the field of canned food and packaging.
Instant noodles weren't enough right away
In 1971, he and his partner founded Pacific Food Products in Melaka, a small production facility for the production of instant noodles.
Production then began in 1972 when they released what is now Mamee's predecessor, Lucky Instant Noodles and Vermicelli.
First Mamee Manufacturing Company in Melaka / Image Credits: Mamee and SCMP
When Tan Sri Pang returned from Japan, he took on Mamee's marketing for rural and miscellaneous businesses while his father focused on running the factory.
Unfortunately, this brand didn't exactly live up to its name in the market, especially due to stiff competition from Cintan and Maggi.
When Lucky found that their sales were not increasing, he ran into financial trouble, which resulted in their banks and investors stopping their funding.
Pang's father and son also suffered from being betrayed by their then partner.
However, this did not mean the end of their brand.
“My father never gave up. He went on. In the end, a Malaysian industrial bank pitied him. But they didn't fund him because of the project, but because of his determination, ”Tan Sri Pang said in an interview with Tech In Asia.
At that time, Tan Sri Pang noticed that rubber tappers in rural areas ate uncooked noodles straight out of the packet because they had no gas stove or heat.
Realizing the demand, they decided to switch their instant noodle brand to an easy-to-consume snack instead of a whole meal.
Hence, Mamee and his friendly, blurry blue monster mascot were born in 1974.
They came up with the name "Mamee" for the snack from the word "Mama", representing the meaning of the strongest emotional connection a person has with their mother.
Although it was the rubber cutters that inspired them to switch gears on their product, they decided to focus their market on kids instead, hence the name.
Building an empire of snacks
The breakthrough in the snack market with a new concept of instant noodles didn't stop them there.
The father and son duo continued to hit the iron while it was still hot by introducing other snacks like Double Deckers Cracker in 1980 and Mister Potato in 1992.
As their brand gained momentum in the snack market, they decided to enter the dairy market as well by introducing Nutrigen's farmed milk and yogurt, which were the opposite of their common food products.
Although their first instant noodle product was not "lucky" on the market, Mamee celebrated a comeback in 2012 with their own Mamee Chef instant noodles.
Today, Mamee has grown into an internationally recognized F&B empire with over 50 products and 10 brands exported to over 100 countries.
Mamees F&B Empire / Photo Credit: Mamee
According to The Edge, they achieved sales of RM 428 million in 2010 with Australia and Singapore as the largest export markets.
When the world fell into a global recession from 2007 to 2008, Mamee remained resilient during that time.
According to The Star, the company achieved a profit of 23.60 million RM on sales of 396.96 million RM in the 2008 financial year. This shows a growth compared to the business year 2007, in which they achieved a profit of 14 million RM based on a turnover of 359.74 million RM.
One of her most notable international recognitions was the partnership between Mister Potato and Manchester United from 2011 to 2014.
This partnership was a shared interest in increasing each other's billionaires' ambitions.
MU wanted to raise $ 1 billion from an initial public offering in Singapore based on its interest in Asia, and Mamee wanted to generate annual sales of RM 1 billion within 5 years.
Fortunately, Mister Potato sales alone have grown by 20% to 25% since the sponsorship started barely a year after the MU sponsorship deal was signed.
Strategies beyond a good recipe
As a result of this partnership, Mamee prioritizes partnerships and networking to grow its empire.
Vuitton Pang, one of the directors of Mamee, shared that an important lesson they have learned is the need to have a good distribution network.
While a company may have the best product in the world without being able to penetrate the furthest corners of the market, it cannot reach its full potential.
Whenever you expand into a new country, identify good partners and distributors to work with.
“You are the key. Without distribution, all the money is lost on branding, ”says Vuitton.
Pierre Pang, executive director of the group, told The Star that one of their key strategies is to work with other companies when it comes to growing sales.
At this point in 2015, they wanted to partner with Societe Family, Uniqlo and Japan's DyDo Drinco Inc. to expand their branding by tapping into other F&B and apparel industries.
Mamees Partnerships / Image Credits: Carol Lam, Uniqlo and Ayue Idris
In the same year they finally reached their fourth business decade and left their mark on a 40-year legacy in food production.
So they celebrated their heritage by opening their first concept store called Mamee Jonker House in the Unesco Heritage Village in Melaka, home of Mamee.
Mamee Jonker House Melaka / Photo credit: Food Advisor MY and KL Foodie
Their concept store consists of a cafe, goods store, noodle doodle station, and mini-kitchen that shows how the snacks are made.
The Mamee Jonker House in Melaka became so successful that they were finally able to publish another Mamee Jonker House in the 163 Retail Park in Mont Kiara for us in KL.
Bottom line: The flavors of their products have long stuck on my tongue, but as I learned their backstory today, their brand got stuck in my head. Her story helped me realize that other kids around the world could enjoy our own local snack not only for its flavors but also for the spirit behind it.
- You can read more about Mamee here.
Featured image source: Tan Sri Pang Tee Chew, CEO of Mamee, and his son Pierre Pang, Group Executive Director at Mamee / Alexandra Radu of SCMP