There seems to be a rise in Malaysian businesses incorporating alcoholic beverages into desserts. The Alcoholic Baker and Chew My Booze make alcoholic cookies, while The Ice Cream Bar and Licky Chan booze up ice cream.
Recently, a new F&B brand has emerged with yet another boozy food product: jams. With variants like Rum N’ Raisin Apple and Drunken Bacon that incorporate stout (RM28) or whiskey (RM32), it’s sold by a pandemic-born business, SpreadCheers that was launched on January 22 this year.
By an experimental home cook
The creator of SpreadCheers has operated an Events Management and Marketing Promotions agency with his sisters for the past 27 years. Having served multiple blue-chip corporations around the region, Richard Soo had been exposed to various cuisines while on business travels to meet his clients.
In spite of that, the discovery of alcohol-infused jams only happened during a family holiday to Tasmania where Richard realised how alcohol was able to enhance the flavours in jams.
A big fan of alcohol-infused foods, he started buying the jams in dozens while travelling. Then came the pandemic which halted flights and clients looking for event management services.
With extra time on his hands and already being an experimental home cook, Richard searched online for recipes to recreate the alcoholic jams for his personal consumption. In the process, he came up with his own version of it using less sugar and more fruits with no additives.
Soon, Richard discovered that there weren’t many players in the local market making alcoholic jams, much less bacon jams.
Pulling together a small budget to buy only the necessities to start up production, Richard and his wife kept costs low by making their first few batches with their existing liquor collection at home.
Affordable luxury to a meal
While we have written about another player selling bacon jams (albeit non-alcoholic) before, they clarified that the product is no longer offered today when we reached out. This was due to the economic downturn after the 1MDB scandal where costs for ingredients shot up, and customers weren’t as willing to spend on luxury products.
When this was brought up during our interview, Richard was aware of this business as well. He said, “I was reminded by my spouse that we bought 2 jars from their stall years ago which we enjoyed thoroughly.”
Though we were able to find other sellers making bacon jam, SpreadCheers appears to be one of the only players as of now making and selling alcoholic jams in Malaysia. At the time of writing, its Shopee store is even the first (and likely the only) hit on Google if you search up “alcoholic jam”.
Hence, there is ample market share in Malaysia up for grabs for SpreadCheers to make a name for itself in this niche market. This is where Richard can further flex his experience in marketing.
“Our focus now, especially since we are still building our brand, is to reach a broader market and introduce to them new ways to enjoy jams and spreads. As such, we need to position our jams as an affordable luxury especially in difficult times such as this.”
To keep overheads low, all products are made in-house, in Richard’s home. The team also recollects emptied jars and packaging from customers which are cleaned out to reuse.
It’s not just cost-saving on SpreadCheers’ part, but Richard shared that customers also appreciate these conservation efforts. This way, they’re also able to reduce the amount of still-usable bubble wrap and carton boxes going to landfills, which is a problem made worse with the rise in e-commerce catalysed by the pandemic.
“All the savings [from packaging] goes to the sourcing and procuring of quality ingredients and liquor. While our profit margins are not as high as we would like, it covers the cost of ingredients and operations with the sales volume achieved,” Richard told Vulcan Post.
An obviously cheeky name
Customers won’t have to ponder too hard to make the connection on how SpreadCheers got its name. Playing on semantics, the products sold is at its core, a “spread”, while “cheers” refers to what you’d chime when drinking alcohol with friends.
The spreads are not only meant to be used on bread, but to add cheer to every meal, stated Richard. So far, he shared that customers have been using the jams as a topping for ice cream, waffles, roasted meats and potatoes, along with salad toppings.
Starting out with alcohol-infused fruit jams, the duo subsequently added their Drunken Bacon with Irish stout or Suntory Whisky offerings to their portfolio of products.
“The jams are cooked with the relevant alcohol to imbue them with the flavours of the selected liquor. This helps to blend the flavours of the fruit with the alcohol, and it does not overpower the taste of the fruits,” Richard shared SpreadCheers’ processes.
For certain jams, more liquor is added after the cooking process to enhance its flavours. But the self-proclaimed jam maestro made sure to emphasise that the alcohol should never dominate the palate. Rather, it should only enhance the flavours of the fruits.
Richard shared that the turning point for the business came after SpreadCheers began partnering with non-competitive suppliers of complementary products. For example, their current offer is selling the jams with scones and croissants at a promotional price.
“This adds value for the customers, in that we are selling a solution (a complete meal) at a discounted price rather than just a mere commodity (a part of a meal). In the past, we have had promotions on bagels, sausages etc.”
Made and sold based on orders, SpreadCheers is currently selling more than 300 jars per month, reaching customers nationwide. Almost a year into the business, Richard and his wife are humbled by customers’ response to date, especially since the two have little to no F&B experience.
Even as Richard returns to his full-time job in events management, he is also learning to juggle and manage his time between both businesses. “It is not easy but something I would like to work on long-term and I’m willing to sacrifice the little free time that I have to ensure its longevity,” he stated.