PETALING JAYA: If you’ve ever wanted to cut excess sugar from your diet but found it hard to pass up on that third or fourth cup of “teh tarik”, you’ll find PotonGuler a timely blessing.
PotonGuler is an up-and-coming business that sells an alternative to the traditional milk-based creamers we all know and love – low-calorie condensed milk sweeteners with absolutely no white sugar.
Each 350gm sweetener packet goes for RM7 each, which works out to about 40 sen every time you use it in a cup of tea or Milo. Other brands cost around the same price but with almost half of its content just sugar.
Entrepreneur Anas Lutfi Norman and his sister Amirah Jasmine have been hard at work for the last nine years thinking up ways to replace white sugar in their day-to-day meals with low-calorie sweeteners.
“What happened was that we came across this sugar replacement or alternative sweetener called Stevia,” Anas told FMT in a recent interview, referring to a type of sweetener derived from plant sources.
Anas, 28, said he found it odd that Stevia was not that popular in Malaysia at the time, especially since there was already a significant rise in non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart problems.
“In fact, this trend is growing today,” he noted. So he and his sister went back to the drawing table to come up with a nifty line of products that were healthier but still sweet enough to get consumers hooked.
For the next decade or so, Anas and the rest of his family, who were also roped in, came up with alternatives to premix coffee, chocolate drinks and table top sweeteners – just about anything that was usually consumed at home.
Some of these products made it to the market, with their “Stevia White Coffee” premix coffee and “Stevia Cocoa” chocolate drinks popular finds at Papparich at one point. And so was their low-calorie fruit drink with no added sugars.
Noting the popularity of these, the Norman family then ventured out into creating a unique sweetener for teh tarik or pulled coffee, which often uses copious amounts of condensed milk, to change this trend as well.
“We noticed that the amount of calories and sugar in these drinks are really high,” Anas said, citing a university study that found a cup of teh tarik contains 140 calories, with 70-80% white sugar per cup.
“Malaysians generally drink up to 10 cups of teh tarik a day, which is not very healthy,” he added, “so we needed to come up with a sweetener that people would use with 10 cups of teh tarik – but with less sugar.”
Anas claimed that a single cup of teh tarik with his condensed milk sweetener would have only 50 calories, compared to the average of 140. And with no white sugar, diabetes patients will also benefit.
“That’s how we came up with the name ‘PotonGuler; it’s condensed milk with zero sugar,” he said, adding that consumers can now enjoy tens of cups of teh tarik a day without any guilt or health concerns.
PotonGuler currently sells the condensed milk sweetener, its most popular product now, through online sales and agents but plans are in store to venture out to retail outlets and major stores after Ramadan.
Anas also has more sugar-free alternatives in the pipeline, including ready-to-drink almond-flavoured milk with turmeric and cinnamon-infused fortified milk. These are slated to be out by year-end.
PotonGuler only started operations in February; his family’s other products like Stevia White Coffee were just one-off productions in the past. But business has been growing steadily in the last five months.
90% of revenue comes from repeat customers who buy the sweeteners in bulk – often 100 to 200 packets each weekly. Others drive in from as far as Sungai Buloh in Selangor, Melaka and Kelantan for business.
It’s not all about money for the Normans though. “Our goal is to make our daily food products affordable and healthier, and with lower risks of contracting health issues,” Anas said.
The most challenging so far for Anas is funding and marketing their product as an entirely new industry. Many are also skeptical about the company themselves and their founders, who are rather young.
Anas prefers to play this down though. He’s a former food designer and general manager of a local low-calorie food manufacturing company. His sister meanwhile is also a low-calorie food product formulist.
He is optimistic that the market will welcome his product. “We know that this is the future of food products. And it’s not that with less sugar, your drinks won’t be as tasteful; they’ll taste even better.”
He’s also keen on sharing his formula with other major industry players as his primary concern is how to reduce the content of sugar in their products without compromising on taste.
It’s a gold mine idea, he said. And he hopes that the next time Malaysians hit the local mamak, they won’t have to ask for “Teh Tarik Kurang Gula (less sugar)” but “Teh Tarik PotonGuler”.
PotonGuler currently has an ongoing promotion for Ramadhan: buy 10 packets and get one free. Delivery, promotion or otherwise, is always free. Orders can only be made via WhatsApp: 011-61657318