Cover Cheman Cheung, founder of Nute (Photo: Affa Chan/ Tatler Asia)

Meet Cheman Cheung, founder of Nüte, a new wellness company that has won over the hearts of numerous Hong Kong companies from Basehall, Rosewood, to Google

“The only way to be interesting to people, you have to have passion. The passion needs to come through the first moment you meet someone,” said Cheman Cheung. 

Dressed in a relaxed, beige short-sleeve shirt, Cheung sat across from me at Wong Chuk Hang’s Africa Coffee & Tea cafe, beaming under the eleven o’clock sun. Cheung is the founder of Nüte, a wellness company that specialises in “icebar smoothies”—rectangular frozen smoothie bars that aim to provide fresh nourishment at any time of day. “The concept of Nüte kind of came into my head almost two years ago. Food, feeling healthy, and nature. I wanted to do something about that. I wanted to do something to foster that,” Cheung tells me. 

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On their website, Nüte offers four “icebars”, each named after the benefit they aim to give: Detox, Energy, Immunity, and Recovery. Above, it reads, “Reimagining smoothies with all the nütrition, but prep- and fuss-free.” The bars can be eaten as a popsicle straight out of the freezer, shaken and melted in a jar, or even blended with a banana for an extra hint of sweetness, reads the site. 

The first time I met Cheung was at Rosewood Asaya’s new wellness programme launch in the autumn of 2021. Still trying to catch my breath after two back-to-back workout classes, Cheung handed out murky, green-hued drinks to the participants, giving me the first taste of Nüte. Refreshing, slightly sweet, and delicious—I was sold. 

Launched in February 2021, the young, eco-conscious brand has already compiled a lengthy resume to boast about: from popping up at Tong Chong Street Market and Basehall––they took over over Cookie Department’s old stall for four months, serving both healthy meals and Nüte smoothies–– as well as working with other well-known companies such as Google, Bloomberg, Bupa, and K11 Art Mall, Nüte has been quietly winning the city’s attention. Last December, the brand also introduced its second product beyond the smoothies, a functional granola range with both sweet and savoury flavours. 

“It was really important to me to spend a lot of time thinking about the things that really matter to me. And that’s being active, being outdoors and food is a necessity that people can easily relate to,” Cheung expands on his inspiration for Nüte. A quick scroll through Cheung’s Instagram and you’ll find this echoed throughout his feed: repeating elements of nature paints his feed shades of blue and green, photos of him being active, from headstands, surfing and wakesurfing, and of course, plenty of pictures documenting his healthy meals––from smoothies to poke bowls and hearty protein grain salads.

It’s hard to imagine the sun-kissed Cheung to be anything other than the health-conscious sea-chaser that we see today, but his wellness journey began just three short years ago when he was working as a trader at JP Morgan. “I was sitting in front of seven screens and I really didn't connect with the job,” said Cheung, who was at the company for nearly five years, joining as an intern while still studying economics at the University of Oxford. 

“I was making decent money, I was able to afford a lot of things I wasn’t able to afford before. I loved that feeling but it only lasted two, three months max. After two to three years, I started having thoughts such as ‘Is this really what I want to do?’ But then again because everything was so comfortable, I didn’t really think too much about it…but my lifestyle started changing towards drinking, client entertainment, and I saw it as a way to escape the big questions that were creeping into my head.”

Before Cheung had the chance to face these questions, however, his world was flipped upside down. “My dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away January 2018. This person who I always looked up to, unexpectedly passed away which shocked me and my family. My whole system was in shock for half a year to a year and I was pushing those who loved me and everyone I loved away. I was also getting out of a very long term relationship. So with all those things combined, I decided I needed to get away from here and figure out what to do with my life, figure out how to do better.” 

Cheung quit his job a year later, setting off on a soul-searching journey in Europe for two months. He rented an Airbnb in San Sebastián, a city in Spain known for world-renowned restaurants and surf spots. “Every morning I just woke up, went surfing, went to the market, got groceries to cook for myself, watched a lot of Netflix, read.” said Cheung. “I spent a lot of time asking myself those big questions about what I want to do with my life, and during that time I also spent a lot of time making food for myself, eating well, not drinking, and I really noticed the difference. My body was feeling a lot better, my mind was a lot clearer. When I was surfing, nature made me feel the most present that I have been all my life.” 

It was during this period that the idea for Nüte was sparked. “Smoothies were something that I made a lot during my time off, because it’s such an easy way to fit a lot of ingredients in quickly and you can keep them interesting as well,” he said. After he returned to Hong Kong, he began to work with a nutritionist to bring his vision to life. “All the recipes are created with a certified nutritionist, so that people can actually know it’s genuinely healthy and fit for the purpose that we sell them for,” said Cheung. 

Cheung may have a stereotypical health-awakening story, but it’s his burning passion for the earth and his desire to influence others to become healthier is what makes him, and therefore, Nüte, special. 

“I think over the past few months I was able to really clarify—No, not that, my vision was always clear,” he corrects himself, “But to remind myself frequently at times of difficulty what my vision is. And with meaning comes motivation, because seeing someone that originally eats unhealthy or is very unhappy with how they feel, and being able to see them achieve micro improvements overtime, appreciating more bits of healthiness or wellness in their life. It’s very noticeable, you can see it. It’s not abstract, it’s real. You can see it in the way that they speak, the energy that they have. It’s real for me.”

Aside from nourishing people’s bodies, Cheung also longs to give back to the earth, making sure all of the icebar packaging contains zero plastic, using unbleched chlorine-free greaseproof paper for the icebar wrapping, cardboard paper, and acid-free paper for the outer packaging.

“I think a lot of environmental problems that we’re having now roots deeply in our detachment from it,” said Cheung. "If I can use Nüte as a platform to cultivate people’s innate connection to nature…hopefully people will start to develop long term changes in their lifestyle that are more friendly to [the earth].”

“Starting a brand, creating things, having a thought that humanity doesn’t always need more is one of my main struggles [with starting a brand], to be honest. But the way that I see Nüte is that we are making things that are just right. Not excessive. Minimising waste,” he said. 

“It’s about doing right, doing better, rather than doing more.”

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