For many Malaysians, particularly those who grew up in the '80s, the furry, blue monster savoury noodle snack was a large part of their childhood memories. Whether it’s an after-school treat purchased off the friendly neighbourhood roti man (a common sight back then in the suburbs of Malaysia) or a snack you convinced a grandparent/parent to buy from a nearby kedai runcit (mom-and-pop store), the nostalgic Mamee Monster was a hit with children nationally.
Decades on, the beloved blue monster continues to win the hearts of the young 'uns not just locally but also internationally. Somewhere between then and now, the company that created the Mamee Monster Noodles, Mamee Double-Decker, went on to become one of the leading regional food manufacturers, innovating quickly to launch a slew of foods including chips, biscuits, beverages, and instant noodles. Then came the one thing that took Malaysia by storm: Daebak Ghost Pepper Spicy Chicken cup noodles, which records a Scoville scale of 1,041,427 SHUs.
The premise of household sensation, well-timed to ride the global Korean wave and right around the time Samyang Foods' Samyang Buldak Bokkeummyeon noodle series peaked, was simple: noodles so insanely spicy, it'll reduce you to tears and have you begging for mercy. For a duration of time during its initial launch, the risqué noodles were also made limited edition, which meant that rare commodity flew off the shelves of every convenience store. Its marketing game was rock solid, with viral challenge videos comprising of influencers firing up various digital platforms. Before long, the Daebak Ghost Pepper Noodles #CanOrNotChallenge even found willing victims recording their mukbangs–it became a movement.
Spearheading this was then director of Shinsegae-Mamee Sdn Bhd, Vuitton Pang, whose first foray into the world of Korean products was met with resounding success. As Shinsegae-Mamee continued to roll out Daebak Ghost Pepper-type foods (chips, cola, packet noodles), the wheels in Pang's head were already turning, blueprinting his next big venture: emart24, South Korea’s fastest-growing convenience store.
"Small format retail is now very popular in Asia but convenience stores in Malaysia still have a lot to be desired, I think we can all agree with that. The introduction of FamilyMart definitely helped," the Asia's Most Influential honouree says. "When we travel to Korea or Japan, we view convenience stores as the perfect place to drop by to get food. Why don't people think like that in Malaysia? I think it’s down to the fact that those convenience store concepts aren’t available here. Malaysia’s convenience store industry still has a lot of room to grow."
"This growth comes from two factors: one is per capita, the number of convenience stores here in Malaysia and also the frequency of visits. The typical Malaysian will probably visit the convenience store once a week, once a month but in Korea, they visit multiple times a week. The frequency of visits alone shows that there are opportunities in the convenience store industry. From the per capita standpoint, in Korea and Japan, they have one convenience store servicing 1,200 people. In Taiwan, one store services 2,400 people. But in Malaysia, you have one store servicing 8,000 people. So it goes to show that there’s still room for growth when we compare ourselves to the more mature countries. That’s why I decided that a convenience store is going to be a very interesting and exciting space, and I really wanted to be involved in it," he enthuses.