Having the hots for Sambal online

Having spent the last 10 years exporting food products to Thailand, Egypt, the Middle-East and Africa, Engku Isa Al-Husam decided in 2015 that he needed something different. In April 2015, FoodMarket.com.my made their debut online. Response was encouraging during the first month despite no promotional activities. Within the first month, they rang in sales of up to RM10,000. “(For us) it’s a matter of word of mouth.

Homemade local products available on FoodMarket – Pix by FoodMarket

Our investment in marketing is in our products and service. It speaks for itself. Our client ranges from housewives, students, professionals to royalties. They are our ambassadors and our marketing proxies”, he says.

Unlike other supermarkets who carry a big chunk of products from international suppliers and food distributors, FoodMarket prides itself with providing an avenue for local small business traders to sell their wares.

Founder Engku Isa shares with pride, “Can you imagine more than 100 types of sambal in our inventory, 30 types of pekasam, 12 types of budu and many more and it’s from all over the country. To date, I can safely say that we are the only company with such offerings. We are not doing anything different but our forte is in doing things differently. We take pride in being the first online foodmart that supplies a variety of kampung food.”

Among their local offerings are products rarely available elsewhere, such as sambal hitam Pahang and sambal ayam penyet.

   FoodMarket’s clean, easy-to-use website

“Our best-selling product is a home-brand Premium Bawang Goreng (fried shallot). It is the most expensive bawang goreng in Malaysia. Every KL socialite is talking about this bawang goreng and it is served at all the Istanas in our country. This bawang goreng has travelled across the globe and has become a Malaysian food ambassador in its own right. Everyone loves it, from Indonesian band, Ungu, the Indonesian, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Bruneian Royalty and many more,” he shares, adding that they owe a large chunk of their success to HRH Crown Princess of Pahang.

The company believes in giving back to the society and as part of their CSR efforts, FoodMarket has taken the initiative to teach inexperienced kampong folks how to market their local produce.

“Our biggest challenge is to educate the small traders. We had to put in some money for their working capital so that we can start working on the orders, he says, adding that other supermarkets and shops usually take a 30 to 90 day credit term.

“We just want to help those in the cottage industry, small traders, single mothers who can make sambal for a living, SME products etc and (going) online was the answer to solve their problem in regards to distribution network and market size.”

Moving forward, Engku Isa says Foodmarket will add more unique offerings to their cart. “For now, there are talks about building an app for added convenience and on-the-go shopping. We are very small with extremely limited capital, so we need really to plan well.”

Need some inspiration for your next family cookout? FoodMarket has also started their own cooking show on their YouTube Channel.

This article was written for Agensi Inovasi Malaysia's AIM Reporter.