World domination?

by Nick Harman - Wednesday August 27, 2014 9:08 am

Created in 1998, WORLDFOODS is, as the name suggests, a world brand. The range of sauces for marinating, stir frying or just jazzing up your dishes is enormous and the Malaysian based brand is now available in the UK. Using the power of Skype we put a few questions to co-founder May Foong

It’s 10 a.m. in the UK but getting on for 5 pm in Malaysia. As the Skype connection stabilises I ask May if she’s getting ready to go home and she chuckles and tells me her day is going to be a lot longer yet.

But that’s the way it is when you run a business, going home is for others the boss has to carry on. Not that May sounds unhappy, a cheerful friendly woman focussed on her job but not robotised by it, she laughs a lot as we talk. Luckily her English is perfect as my Malaysian is a little rusty.

‘It’s actually a busy time of day for us,’ she points out, ‘because this is when clients in Europe and later in the USA, are actually beginning their working days’.

I ask her about the focus Malaysian and indeed all Far Eastern people have on spices and herbs. Here in Europe our food uses so few, after all.

‘Yes, It is very true,’ she agrees. ‘Far Eastern cuisine does rely on our herbs and spices, which are so many compared to western foods and so varied - Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian. During the 18th Century spices were travelled back and forth between cultures and as a result South East Asian cuisine has benefitted.'

'All over quality herbs and spices are seen as vital to bring life to meats and fish. It would be a very dull meal otherwise and while it would be ideal to always make your own sauces, just as it would be ideal to always buy fresh fish and meat, sometimes you have to rely on frozen meats and fish and it’s the same with sauces. Life is more hectic now you don’t always have time to get fresh food or to make sauces from fresh herbs and spices yourself. So you can use one of ours!’

The UK it seems has embraced Far Eastern food perhaps more than any other European country. Has that made it easier as a market?

‘Well it’s an interesting question. When we first started in 1998 the nature of our business then was to work closely with supermarkets in the UK who desperately wanted SE Asian food to meet the growing demand from consumers. By nature the UK is a cosmopolitan country, one with long standing connections with India and Asia and UK so yes it is a very receptive market for SE Asian foods and cuisine.’

But can cooks here ever get the same results as cooks in the SE Asian countries?

‘Yes I think it is possible to create great results wherever one is and in the UK definitely. Jar sauces like ours mean you can get what you need when you want without waste. Take lemon grass for instance, when you buy it fresh, and that’s not always easy, you tend to be made to buy more than you need and it ends up dried and useless in the fridge. But from a jar you can use what you need and even once opened the jar will still be good if kept in the fridge

What’s the thinking behind WORLDFOOD products?

‘Well we took some time, three years in fact, to formulate our products. I wanted to create a product that was authentic and would please an Asian person but gave them the flexibility to add what they wanted, like extra heat for example. You can add more chilli but you can’t take it out. Taste is subjective so while our sauces can be used ‘as is’ they are also a foundation to be added to as required.’

‘We don’t want to tell people how to cook, say. Rendang or Massaman curries, but give people a start toward them and also to encourage the use of all WORLDFOOD sauces in varying and creative ways.’

'At the same time I also wanted our products to be free from artificial additives. To be gluten and dairy free and contain no nuts. Even oil we decided could not go in.'

'And of course people want less salt and sugar in their foods and we’ve met that requirement too.’

How do you ensure the freshness from the local ingredients reaches the plate here in the UK?

‘We source products for our sauces from around our factory area using trusted suppliers who we audit regularly. A hundred people chop vegetables and prepare spices and the bottled sauces are sterilised in a retort system to give them longer shelf life. We could use powdered ingredients to achieve that, but we don’t.’

And what next? You’re online. Are you going into the shops?

‘Well we want to develop more sauces, more world sauces not just SE Asian and yes we want to spread the word in the UK and get the products available in the supermarket chains. We want to spread the word gently using alternative methods to advertising like pop ups, social media etc. Get into street food opportunities and collaborate with people and get the story and healthy message across.'

And with that I can tell May is eager to get on so we part. She clearly is passionate about her product, determined to take no short cuts and won’t be content until everyone is cooking authentic, exotic meals the easy way.

May Foong & WORLDFOODS support the Courageous Kitchen, which gives disadvantaged children a head start in learning about cuisine and personal skills.

For an authentic Fusion & Asian cooking experience in your own home, you can buy WORLDFOODS sauces direct

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