Make Snacking Part of Your Work Culture: Q&A with Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

April 20, 20212:33 pm720 views
Make Snacking Part of Your Work Culture: Q&A with Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet
Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

Snacking has become an eating norm for many organisations and is one of the best perks employers can give to their people. Whenever employees crave for something during work hours, snacking often becomes a go-to food for it is easy and lighter to chew. Employees might also turn to the office pantry and grab a snack to shoo away their fatigue or boredom. Slowly but surely, office snack has become a vital part of office culture, especially to attract young talents.  

Founder & CEO of the Kettle Gourmet Zac Chua said in our interview that making snacking part of his office culture has been worth the result. Along with other employee management programs, providing snacks has helped boost his employee’s motivation and engagement.  Below is our conversation with Zac. Read on…

Firstly, Zac, why do you think snacking is important? In a workplace setting, how does snacking affect an employee’s mood and motivation?

Employee engagement has evolved considerably. What were once “nice-to-haves”, including pantries with snacks, are now expected as part of workplace benefits to attract and retain talent. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, free snacks are a benefit on the rise as almost a third of companies surveyed offered free snacks and beverages, a 9% increase since 2015.

While these gestures for employee engagement may seem small, accumulatively, they have been critical for building teams and bolstering company morale, increasing job satisfaction. A quick visit to the pantry to get some snacks encourages employees to take a break from the computer screen and meeting colleagues there fosters camaraderie.

Snacking throughout the day is one of the ways to raise productivity as snacks ensure high levels of energy which are needed for prolonged concentration and performance. A bowl of taste treats is a small price to pay for a more focused and energetic meeting. Even while working remotely, snacks can play a part in helping employees destress and give them the energy they need for work. The workplace will continue changing as the situation evolves. Snacking will remain an important part of the work culture wherever employees may be.  

That’s an interesting answer. Now, many people might be curious about this one: why does popcorn become your VIP snack? How do you develop new flavours?

The idea for The Kettle Gourmet was born in 2017 when I smelt the delectable aroma of Nasi Lemak, that someone had smuggled into the cinema, whilst I was enjoying my popcorn in the theatre. It struck me then that I could combine these two delicious snacks to create quirky, local-inspired popcorn varieties that would appeal to the Singaporean and Asian palate. Currently, The Kettle Gourmet selections come in local favourites including Chilli Crab, Chicken Floss, Nasi Lemak and Kaya Butter Toast, as well as traditional versions such as Salted Caramel and Chocolate.

Our flavours are inspired by nostalgic tastes that we know and love, and we try our best to put local touches into our popcorn. As passionate foodies and popcorn lovers, together with my team of in-house Chefs, we work hard to come up with the most delicious range of popcorn flavours so that our customers can reminisce, discover and enjoy, and we spend a lot of time and resources researching local favourites that would work best for a fun snack at any point of the day. We have dedicated tasting days each week to look at what’s next for The Kettle Gourmet. 

We invest heavily in R&D and ensure we always listen carefully to the market as well, replacing older flavours based on data acquired from sales, employee and customer feedback. This approach allows us to make sure our selection is always fresh and appeals to what our consumers want.

How do you maintain your team’s motivation besides providing snacks to them during the working day?

At The Kettle Gourmet HQ, every Friday is called ‘People Day’, where I spend one-on-one time with each member of my team to get their feedback or insights into how to improve the company. I believe that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of our customers, who will ultimately help boost our sales and business. On a Friday afternoon, we all like to get together – virtually or in-person – to play games such as Mahjong or Dota 2. This is a great way to wind down and get ready for the weekend, while bonding and spending time together.

Interesting research from Healthline mentioned that snacking can be either healthy or unhealthy, depending on the snack ingredients and the person’s health. So, how do you balance indulgence and health in your snack composition?

We aim to be as healthy as possible, however, at the end of the day, we are a popcorn brand, and sadly, popcorn can never be 100% guilt-free. But we have come up with the healthiest version, using high-quality ingredients including non-GMO natural corn, no trans-fat in our baking process and we only use a fraction of sugar compared to our competitors.

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, many companies reduce their budget to hiring initiatives, marketing, and other operations. How does your company respond to this? Do you have any initiative to help companies affected by the pandemic?

In response to changes in working arrangements during COVID-19, as a largely B2B focused business appealing to large corporations, we quickly switched gears and leveraged our digital-first approach to engage with consumers working from home, providing them with unique-flavoured snacks that help boost their motivation and productivity at work. The team used the downtime throughout Circuit Breaker to undergo a rebranding exercise to create an entirely new look for The Kettle Gourmet, featuring the current mascots, the “snack monsters”, which continue to prove popular with consumers. This change in strategy ensured The Kettle Gourmet grew 247% amidst the pandemic, coming out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever.

Earlier this year, we also recently launched a new Subscription Service, so that companies or individuals working remotely can continue to receive a constant supply of their favourite snacks. The popcorn is delivered to their doorsteps or offices every month, for a period of three or six months to a year. In addition to providing convenience, The Kettle Gourmet subscription service also allows customers to save more as well as track or make changes to their delivery dates, ensuring flexibility.

What makes Kettle Gourmet different from other snacking options?

At The Kettle Gourmet, our unique flavours are what bring our customers back to us time and again. They enjoy discovering new and unique flavours, so we spend time researching and developing new local-inspired varieties of popcorn that would appeal to the Asian palate. Offering different flavours from our competitors, our current selection from the ‘Crazy Asian Series’ includes an array of delicacies such as Nasi Lemak, Kaya Butter Toast, Chicken Floss and some others. Living in today’s health-conscious society, we have adapted our recipe to ensure that our popcorn only includes a fraction of sugar compared to other popcorn-brands.

More than just a snack, our popcorn is giftable as well as our flavours come in delightful gift boxes that consumers could send to their friends, families or corporate clients. Additionally, The Kettle Gourmet is the only popcorn subscription company in Singapore that delivers delicious popcorn right to consumers’ doorsteps, bringing not only convenience but helping our regular customers who love our snacks save some money as well.

What might be your company’s new breakthrough this year?

Looking ahead, my team and I are working hard to expand The Kettle Gourmet with new experiences, partnerships, and flavours.

We are launching two new flavours and looking to partner a global brand to market our products. We also plan to expand into new markets such as China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and The Philippines, and are busy working on researching and developing localised flavours for these countries, as well as exploring potential distributorship and partnership opportunities there.

Looking ahead, I am also planning to build two more food and beverage brands to turn The Kettle Gourmet into a conglomerate. More details on these will be announced at a later date – watch this space!

Read also: The Rise of Hybrid Work in Singapore and APAC, a Discussion with Paul MacAndrew of IWG 

About Zac Chua 

Zac Chua is the Founder and CEO of The Kettle Gourmet, a Singapore-based popcorn manufacturer and distributor that serves fresh hand-baked popcorn in both traditional favourites and unique local flavours. Fast forward to today, the company has reached a daily sales volume of 1000 bags of popcorn a day and accrued over 300 business partners and clients, including large corporations such as Facebook, Tripadvisor, and the Singapore Police Force.

Connect with Zac on LinkedIn

Content rights: This exclusive interview content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.