It all started with a runner’s search for the perfect drink to quench his thirst and replenish his nutrients after a good run.
35-year-old Alex Goh, who’s a self-professed juice lover, found that most post-workout drinks are either too artificial, expensive, or tasteless.
So he roped in his friends, Joyce Huang (31) and Bryan Low (35) to start up their very own brand of instant superfood juice packets.
Self-Professed Health Enthusiasts-Turned-Entrepreneurs
When he was working in the fast-paced technology industry for 10 years, Alex noticed how many office workers had little time to eat and drink better.
Sharing his sentiments, his running buddy, Bryan who has 10 years of working experience in the high-pressure finance industry, joined him to offer better options in the beverage industry besides highly-caffeinated and artificially flavoured drinks.
Together with his ex-colleague at Microsoft, Joyce and her digital marketing and community-building skills, they established Doki Doki in June 2017.
Alex, who graduated from Warwick University with first class honours in Computer Science and a Britain’s Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year Award nominee, revealed that the three of them pooled together their savings to begin their health food venture.
Joyce and Alex left their jobs to run Doki Doki full-time while Bryan juggles his time between business development for the company and his work as an adjunct finance lecturer and course coordinator at the National Technological University (NTU).
On becoming full-time entrepreneurs, Joyce said, “We’ve always wanted to do a product business and the timing, context and problem all came to be the right opportunity. Our skill sets are all complementary so it worked out.”
As they do not have any formal experience in the food and nutrition or food science industry, the team leverages on their knowledge and passion for all things healthy and nutritious.
Bryan sits on the board of Sports Singapore; Alex is an avid boxer and runner who is in the midst of getting his food nutrition certificate; Joyce is a superfoods and probiotics fan who studied the food manufacturing process to prepare for the inception of Doki Doki.
They would regularly make a trip to Vietnam, where Doki Doki is made, to personally taste test each batch and ensure quality meets standards.
The team also has two staff on their R&D team who are trained in the food science field as well as extensive experience in the fruit industry.
Singaporeans Hearts Go ‘Doki Doki’
To my knowledge, ‘doki doki‘ is the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound of a fast heartbeat.
“That is usually a good thing, and it usually happens when you are anticipating something wonderful that’s about to happen,” Alex explained.
“In the same way, we wanted our customers to have a heart-thumpingly good experience with our juices. We also felt it was a family-friendly name because our customers range from kids to the elderly.”
There are currently five flavours available: Blueberry with Açaí Berry, Passionfruit with Camu Camu, Calamansi Ginger with Kale, Soursop with Chia Seeds, and Dragon Fruit with Chia Seeds.
A box of Doki Doki Instant Superfood Juice comes with four sachets of purée made with natural sugars like stevia and sugarcane juice and has no added colouring.
To drink, just pour the contents of the sachet into a cup, add 180ml of cold water, and stir well.
They also offer pure açaí powder and pure camu camu powder – a supplement made of a type of berry that is rich in Vitamins A and C that boosts immunity.
The powders can be made into a smoothie so now, you can satisfy your açaí bowl cravings and save on those expensive café visits.
“We decided to marry superfoods and tropical fruits to help busy office workers and their families get their daily superfood fix, and at the same time, enjoy a refreshing drink,” Joyce added.
She said that Doki Doki’s juices use fruits like dragonfruit, passionfruit, and soursop, which are difficult to juice but have been peeled, cut, and turned into puree for easy consumption.
“All the juices are dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan,” Bryan shared, “We make sure that we use locally sourced tropical fruits direct-from-farm so we can make it sustainable for the farmers we work with.”
“All our fruits are frozen from the time the farmers pick them to lock in nutrition and freshness before pasteurising them at low heat to keep the vitamins in.”
What sets Doki Doki apart from other types of superfood supplements in the form of powders or pills, is really, the quick and simple way to enjoy it.
According to Bryan, each packet of purée is sealed in bacteria-resistant, airtight, and leak-proof pouches that are convenient to bring around so busy individuals can consume them anytime they want.
He also noted that the majority of their customers are women who buy for their families, so in light of that, they ensure serving size is accurate so customers can prepare it with ease.
Health Is Wealth
Typically, food categorised under ‘healthy foods’ or ‘superfoods’ tend to be priced a little higher than most.
But to keep true to their mission to “empower [their] customers to easily create great-tasting, super nutritious superfood juices and recipes for the whole family”, Bryan said they decided to make the price for a box of Doki Doki at $8.
Besides the value-for-money price, perhaps another reason why they’ve received good responses is their efforts on the ground.
It took six months of R&D to produce their first batch of Doki Doki purée before it officially hit the shelves in late November 2017.
They first launched with a small pop-up event at Raffles Xchange, then grew to do more pop-ups at department stores like Takashimaya, Isetan, and BHG.
Then they started stocking at actual retail stores and got invited to join seasonal fairs organised by Mahota and Isetan.
“Most of our marketing is done organically through word-of-mouth,” Bryan stated, “A lot of our recurring customers buy [our products] offline at our pop-ups and tell their friends and family, and then continue order online through our website or Redmart.”
By having a physical presence, they were able to let customers taste and find out for themselves the difference between Doki Doki and other products in the market.
On the digital front, they work with online food and fitness influencers, and ‘mumfluencers’ (mum influencers) who produce positive and impactful content, to promote Doki Doki, Bryan shared.
They also actively post recipes and send health tips to their customers through their newsletter and blog, and to thank customers for their support, they’ll also conduct giveaways on Facebook and Instagram.
Recently, they’ve branched out to do business-to-business (B2B), supplying to cafés, restaurants, and corporate events, and have even exhibited at food fairs in Japan.
“To date, we’ve served more than 200,000 servings or cups of Doki Doki superfood juice to our customers,” Bryan shared.
On how her experience at Microsoft and Xiaomi helped her with marketing for Doki Doki, Joyce said that it’s “definitely different”.
“[But] at the core, it’s still the same,” she explained, “If you have a good product, marketing becomes a multiplier of that.”
“A lot of the core skills, like building a strong community for your product, communicating your value proposition and really making sure your product solves a legitimate problem for your customers is the same.”
Eyeing Asia Expansion In 2019
One of the challenges they have consistently faced since establishing the company is meeting the demand for online orders as all their purée is made one batch at a time.
But as a testament to their efforts, the company has “broken even recently, despite heavy investments in the manufacturing process”, Alex shared.
“We will continuously build our sales channels in 2019 and are also in the midst of talking to overseas distributors in markets like Japan, Korea, Australia and Indonesia. So far we’ve also secured distribution in Vietnam and Hong Kong.”
Going by the response they received when they were in Japan, Alex said there is demand there for tropical fruit juice.
“Expanding into the Japanese supplement market (the world’s most developed) is also on our roadmap, so we want to make sure we can localise easily when we get there,” he added.
They have also been approached by distributors from these countries and “are in advanced talks”, Alex revealed.
“There is a lot of interest from the Middle East, and hence, Halal certification is on our to-do list.”
After gathering feedback from customers and based on their research, they are planning to introduce a new line of purée with acerola and collagen that will help to reduce joint pains and improve skin health.
Seems like 2019 will be making their hearts and the business go doki doki!
Concluding our interview, Joyce’s advice for aspiring F&B entrepreneurs with their own product: “F&B is a tough industry. Be very sure of your product’s value proposition and be special enough so that people remember you. Also, make sure you are solving the right problems.”
Featured Image Credit: Doki Doki