“If you think about your favourite ice cream spots in Malaysia, you’d think of stores that begin with a ‘B’ (Baskin Robins) or ‘H’ (Haagen-Dazs).”
“Now, if you also think of ‘I’ (Inside Scoop), then we’ve done our job,” says Edmund Tan, Co-founder of Inside Scoop.
The homegrown-brand, famous for coming up with local flavours, had come a long way since 2013, when Tan and his wife and co-founder Lim Shiew Li, started making ice-cream at the back kitchen of their first Inside Scoop store in Bangsar, where the interview is held.
We’d wake up in the morning, we’d churn the ice cream then we’d sell it in the afternoon. So, we’ve got a lot of fond memories of this store.
“We’d wake up in the morning, we’d churn the ice cream then we’d sell it in the afternoon. So, we’ve got a lot of fond memories of this store,” says Edmund.
Six months later, the pair opened their second store. Five years on, they have nine stores in Klang Valley, eight in KL, one in Putrajaya, Malacca, Ipoh and Penang.
Prior to Inside Scoop, the pair had a good career in the corporate sector. Tan was a banker; Lim an insurance product manager – both based out of Singapore.
So, what drove them home, and straight into the ice-cream business - one that has largely been dominated by established, foreign brands.
“I was taking some time off and that’s when we decided, let’s do something fun! Let’s do something creative and that’s when we decided ice cream was going to be it,” recalls Tan.
“It’s a happy product, everyone gets excited about ice cream. You eat it when you’re happy and when you’re sad, you become happy when you eat it,” he says.
Eating ice cream does make you feel happy; it is backed by science. Scientists have found that a spoonful of the cold stuff lights up the pleasure centre in the brain.
Making ice-cream, however, requires a special kind of alchemy, and Inside Scoop knew it had to create a special kind of taste and… feeling too.
“Natural, local and fun” – the three key aspects that Tan hopes to make Inside Scoop different from its competition.
“Our philosophy has been the same since day one, we only use natural products in all of our ice creams,” says Tan, emphasizing that vanilla – a dominant ingredient for ice-cream flavouring - is derived naturally.
“We scraped (the seeds) out of the vanilla pods. We then cook it together with the ice-cream – which makes our costs a bit higher,” explains Tan.
Although the homegrown company faces off with many international brands, it has grown a loyal following among Malaysians enticed by the unique local flavours Inside Scoop has to offer. It counts flavors like Teh Tarik, durian, cendol and cempedak as some of its best-selling ice cream.
It currently offers over 20 flavours – the most popular, according to Tan, is the Valrhona chocolate, made from ‘finest French chocolate’.
To keep customers excited, Inside Scoop switches up its offering from time-to-time.
“We introduce new flavours every one or two months but we also take some flavours away. Right now, we’re going to do Matcha Tiramisu, which is really delicious. Last week we had Rocky Road, Rock Melon and Pop Rocks.”
Where does he get the inspiration for new flavours?
“Shiew Li and I will always try and gain inspiration from eating. It’s a lot harder than it seems,” he jokes. “When we travel, we eat like five or six meals a day just to get inspired, so that we can integrate unique flavours into our ice cream,” says Tan.
Sometimes, the process of securing a new flavour involves going through great measures too.
“We went to fifteen Gula Melaka suppliers before settling on this one farmer. He sells Gula Melaka and coconut milk in this small shop in front of a market.”
“I can’t tell you where exactly; it’s top secret! The ingredients are then ground up into a paste, which we then mix with milk,” he explains.
Similarly, the pair goes to at least five to ten durian suppliers per season just to get the best fruits in their search for flavour .
Halfway through the interview, the 35-year old Tan politely instructs one of his employees to straighten a signage on the counter, prompting the conversation to switch gears; from ice-cream to management.
“I (rule with) an iron fist!” says Tan, as laughter ensues in the store.
Overall, I don’t think we would have done too many things differently.
“My partners and I were just talking about - if we were to look back over the last five years, (we asked) would we have done anything materially different? Overall, I don’t think we would have done too many things differently.”
“Maybe we could have grown one or two stores a bit faster or we could have made a few commercial calls that would benefit us better. But I think balancing how much fun we had growing the brand over the years and all the recognition it’s received today, we couldn’t be more grateful,” says Tan.
The key ingredient to Inside Scoop’s, he thinks, is having a team of employees who are dedicated to ensuring every customer who walks into the stores feels special and ultimately, have a good time.
“ At the end of it, we believe that customers buy into our philosophy which is to create happy memories.”
“Like when you come into the store, you are greeted by the guys behind the counter who are energetic, or at least we hope so,” he bursts into a laugh.
“They do a good job serving you and you always leave the store happy. So, that’s consistent with our company vision, to create happy memories especially for staff customers and suppliers.”