Malaysia’s Fresh Milkman – Loi Tuan Ee
Farm Fresh brand & the Holstein Milk Company
Food is what people will always need. With that in mind, Perak born Loi Tuan Ee stopped manufacturing carton boxes and bought land in Kota Tinggi, Johore to farm goats, grow dragon fruits and rear arowana fish. That was in the mid-2000s. By 2009 he was bottling goat’s milk to sell but producing enough of goat’s milk on a commercial scale was a big challenge and retailing it at a high price deterred customers. Loi did not believe in preservatives and so shelf life was also an issue (3 weeks). He decided for business sustainability to focus on rearing dairy cows.
But why fresh cow’s milk? Loi found that most Malaysian milk brands were selling milk based on reconstituted or powdered milk. Fresh and pure dairy milk was the best as far as Loi is concerned. So the first 60 Holstein Jersey cows were imported from Australia and the Holstein Milk Company was born and the brand “Farm Fresh” was launched. Needing help for expansion and further capital investment, Loi called on an old friend, Azmi Zainal to join him (both love agriculture and talk about cows a lot), and Khazanah Nasional which bought a 30% stake in the Holstein Milk Company. Azmi Zainal is the Director of Operations while Loi continues to helm the company he founded as Managing Director. From 60 cows to over 3,500 cows and a second dairy farm at Muadzam Shah, Pahang, the Farm Fresh brand has also expanded to include a range of fresh milk drinks, yoghurt, soy milk drinks and Nubian Goat’s Milk. Malaysians are warming up to Farm Fresh and taking the brand to close to 40% of local market share for fresh milk.
In August 2018, another investor, Dymon Asia Private Equity, also bought a stake in the company. Loi said that the investment by Dymon Asia will fund the company’s next phase of growth to expand beyond Malaysia and Singapore. Tan Chow Yin, Partner at Dymon Asia, said that Farm Fresh is a market leader in fresh dairy milk in Malaysia and they have watched the brand grow over the last few years. High quality and healthy dairy goods to consumers at affordable prices has the right formula for growth. Dymon Asia recently in 2019 teamed up with Dato’ Lim Kok Cheong, founder of Yee Lee Corporation, to take Yee Lee private but the joint offer fell a little short of the 90% mark to trigger a Mandatory General Offer for the remaining shares. Yee Lee Corporation has up to July 2020 to resolve the 25% public shareholding spread. Yee Lee Coporation manufactures the Red Eagle or Helang cooking oil brand which is a household brand in Malaysia. It is also a major distributor of F&B and household products in Malaysia.