Tony skinner 00:01
Hi, and welcome to the podcast channel for podcast my business and content made easy. And we continue on with the theme for World Vegan Month. And we’re welcomed with Diem of www.cocoandlucas.com.au It’s a it’s a interesting name, Chinese Vietnamese and Austrian German influence. Hello.
Hi, Tony, thank you so much for having me on my business podcast. It’s such an honor to be speaking to you.
Tony skinner 00:33
Okay. So we want to go through your story, you’ve got a great story in the background of being one of the settlers from Vietnam. When you’re like four or five, it’s interesting. I came from the UK when I was about that age. So we’re both immigrants, but we’ve had a bit of a different journey because of course, white Anglo Saxon, and it’s a little bit easier for us. But have you how have you found things growing up in Australia?
I can see Australia as a refugee since 1980, the 20th of June we arrived in Australia. But before that, I just want to tell you a little bit we I travel on a 25 meter boat with 504 people in a boat and honestly, I’m not exaggerating. We were we were squashed like turnips.
Yeah, because there’s only I remember, there’s only about three to four toilets for us to share amongst other people. And we only have enough food. When I’m not talking about who I’m talking about light snacks and crackers and just enough water for us to for the captain forecasts as three days to get to our first and numerous refugee camp, which is calendar Lang, Indonesia.
So my family I resided in Indonesia, refugee camp in Golan Golan for 18 months before out we have the sponsorship of my uncle who came to Australia two years before us, he got eight sons and daughters. So they all helped 200 of my relatives to sponsor us to Australia in 1980. And Tony, I cannot tell you how much I owe Australia as a citizen. That’s why I’m a refugee. I’m Vietnamese, I’m Chinese. But everything I do is about Australia.
Like I want to pay Australian tax. I want to enrich the Australian economy. I like everything to be Australian, my Australian source, Australian employees and my model is only export, not import. So this country, Australia has done so much for my family. And it’s my way of saying thank you and he’s back. So to say all my life, I’ve always struggled.
So firstly, it was a struggle just to get out of Vietnam. And then three days later on the on the boat, I might have way to Indonesia, we were incept intercepted by pirates. And then 18 months in Indonesia is a you know, living there 18 months waiting for our visa. And then the first time coming to Australia. We lived in a three bedroom house with 15 people. And the only rooms that wasn’t utilized was the bathroom in the kitchen. So every single room last but garage, the lounge room, we use them.
And I say when we came to Australia, the organization that helped my family a lot was the the Salvation Army. They gave us beds, they gave us clothes. And you know, I think all these hardships in my life has made me who I am today. And if I had to turn back times there wouldn’t be anything that will change. Yeah.
Tony skinner 04:08
And that’s really, really important that people realize that. Yeah, you can struggle. And let’s face it, we’re going through some struggles at the moment with COVID and reverse through to the other side and what have you. And some individual businesses have done well.
Tony skinner 04:22
And some have struggled and some have not made it through. itssunfortunate, but it is the way that life is and yeah, it’s a great story that you survive and what’s before have all you’ve done in the last few months, you’ve got massive amounts of orders overseas. So what what’s been your success and I didn’t mention it, so let me mention it now. Cocoandlucas.com.au Is your website for your vegan food. I loved it that you had spring rolls without pork. I don’t like pork Whenever I get spring rolls, it’s always got to have pork in it, it really annoys me.
Yes, well, I’m so glad that we are actually innovating something that you would love. So I have How would I, I think we have been very, very fortunate that I 12 years ago, I met a person that I highly respect. And I before I started the brand, he said to one sentence to me, and I never could be an attorney, he said to me, give me if you can create a product that is under $10. That for adults and under $5 for kids, and it is good value, and is sustainable and is helping someone’s health and it’s good for the environment.
Even if there was a pandemic or there was a crisis, you will never be out of business. And I actually use this concept and created Cocoandlucas.com.au. And Coco and Lucas started with junior foodies. So we started with your newly foodies, from age three to 12. So when I I think I launched the plant based Earth was really firstly out of necessity, and really by accident tourney, because in 2018, I did an extensive course in Melbourne. For us me to export made to, to overseas. And I’m also a butchers daughter. Wow. And I went home after the three days cause an extensive exam, I came back a change person, because when I’ve learned that is not sustainable.
The way we you know we that the impact on the environment of how Leclerc sandbar I learned there, I didn’t know that hey, a cow consume a kilo grams of grain a day. And by the time it goes to slaughter after 24 months, it would have consumed five or six tonnes of grain. And I think when I look at all these things, I think this is not really sustainable. And as a human by myself, I know that I can change the world. But I know I can do a little bit to change the world. So I came back a changed person.
So at the moment, if you look at my business model is 60% plant base, and 40% normal meals. Well, I’ve always feel I have to encourage, you know, the flexitarian if they would consider eating plant based one or two days a week without compromising on the taste, smell texture. And I’m constantly working really, really hard Tony to make it more accessible to you know that the wider audience because plant based, not only should it be good for you, but it should be not be more expensive than the normal bait.
So instead of selling more products with more meat in the front, 2019 to 2021, I launched 14 products PLANT BASED into Woolworths. And from 2016, I was the only company that on a big scale of nipa us ranging in worth nearly 1000 store to only new sustainable packaging. So I use a a pulp tray. And when I’m using a pulp tray in my sound very simple, but it’s very highly expensive. And also all my sleeves are craft paper. And that’s also recyclable. So I’ve always practiced environmental, you know, something that’s always good for the earth. I didn’t want to use a plastic tray. I knew I wanted to do things that can be biodegradable, recyclable. So earth came to me because also that time, Woolworth came to me and said, Jimmy, can you launch five ready meals into work and I had really only three months to do that. And when I look back, you know, since that day, I have continuously invest into research and development to always improve the products in plant based meat alternative.
Tony skinner 09:19
Yeah, cuz that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because a lot of like, so I lived overseas for in Europe for quite a few years. And I would buy organic fruit and veggies. And there’s a massive difference with organic. Now we’re so blessed here in Australia, that you don’t really need to buy organic fruit and veggies because the quality of our fruit and veggies are so amazingly high. And that’s what makes things expensive for people so people assume if it’s plant based, it must be organic. Therefore it must be expensive, but you’re going well no, it’s still high quality ingredients without the huge price tag
Yes, well, to be fair, I think when I’m actually making plant based food the technology behind it is quite labor intensive. So I’ll explain to you so for us to go from using texture, vegetable protein in a dry form, by the time we soak it, and add in the ingredients, and been set is actually about three or four steps. So it’s actually using human intelligence as well as the equipment. And the process, it is two or three more steps. So that’s why the technology has made it more expensive. But my job is to make sure that I can actually automate that to to bring the cost down. Because I it took for me, besides encouraging someone to eat a great, delicious plant based, I have to do three things I have to innovate, I have to always better the formula. And at the end of the day, I can tell you, Tony, this is good for you.
This is what the environment is for a tasty, delicious, yeah, without compromising your taste. That’s, you know, so we don’t know what all the other brands are doing. But personally from Earth, that’s what we’re constantly doing. Because, you know, my mom has always told me, give me whatever you sell, make sure it’s always good value. That’s, that’s our, you know, put value for the family. That’s, that’s our vision.
Tony skinner 11:31
Yeah. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that we have this impression of anything that’s plant based, and that it’s good for you, the cardboard box tastes better than the food inside. And, you know, that’s what’s known as and you’re going the other way, starting off with the taste and the texture and the flavor. So people want to eat it and kids want to eat it, they’re not going to eat something doesn’t taste good.
That’s right. So the reason we have been very, very lucky to do that Tony is we are I co founded in 2009 and ingredients company called Berg ingredients. So is very Bergingredients is 100% do white label for all the major blue chip company. So we have my husband I we have together since 1991. A wealth of experience in ingredients marinates we do all the ingredients on our chemists sensory for all the major clients in Australia. And in that business, we are actually one of the leaders in servicing over 2500 major supermarket with with helping them with the you know the flavor profiles of have moods. So I think we have sort of like a headstart, how we flavor our plant base, because we understand ingredients taste sensory, so well.
So I’ll give you an example when we actually it took us eight months to know how to flavor plant based food. Because when you’re flavoring and normal meat is easier because when you have a chicken or a cow has physical mechanical stimulation it like was it flies or swim. It’s got that natural umami taste.
Tony skinner 13:19
I was gonna ask umami , what does umami actually mean? There’s Is there a definition?
It’s that natural taste that is a normal meat. Whereas in plant based, everything is plant.. It’s very bland. So it took us a while to know how to do the flavor and taste of plant base. And sometimes with plant base, it’s very tricky, because when you try to make it taste nice, then all of a sudden you have a high Sodhi. So you know, we plant base, there’s two trickiness of Besides, you’re getting the balance to innovate, to make it taste nice to make sure the nutrition panel sport. So it is something that I think all brands are working very hard on.
Tony skinner 14:08
Okay, so what would you see? Um, you’re saying you do 60% plant based and 40% traditional. And you use the term wasn’t pescatarians it was flexitarians
Yeah, and omnivores.
Tony skinner 14:23
Right. So what does that mean?
For someone who is so the flexitarian is someone like yourself who is having a normal meat as well as the, the, you know, converting to plant base, twice a week. And then we have the pescetarian who are eating fish but no meat. And then you have the vegans and the vegetarian who is will buy our food.
And then you have the omnivores So they all walk because eventually, when you look at their population, at the moment, we have 7 billion people. In 20 22,050, we have a 9 billion people, you have an extra 2 billion people to feed. Yeah. Right. So in a day, we have three meals. So you’re looking at 27 billion meals a day. So for that two extra billion people, they made up of all the groups that I was talking about.
So we have to make sure that I would like to be one of the first plant based leader to actually service you know, that extra 2 billion people, to encourage everyone to have a more healthy diet, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the planet is good for your house. And it should be put value in reasonable price. So that’s the reason why I’m I am concentrating on the plant based sector.
Tony skinner 16:06
So So are you ready to make 2 billion meals?
No, i cant do it it. Even if you’re not if even if I can do 2% of that. I’ll be very happy.
Tony skinner 16:18
Absolutely. Yeah. We’re very lucky. In Australia, we make our own food pretty much what is it about 97% of food Australians eat is grown in Australia, whether it’s plant based or walking and talking and flying, and as you say, so what’s the future? Nowyou’re available now in Woolworths? nationwide? You shipping out to New Zealand? What about the states? What would be the profile of people in the States?
With the States, I was supposed to go to South Carolina at the beginning of 2020, not because of COVID. I wasn’t able to have a today’s conference to present to the Vice directly. So at the moment, we are sending out ambience range PLANT BASE to America. But we only in the early stage. Right?
Because I think with America, not everyone’s back into office. Yeah. America is quite the leader in plant based. So they do have a variety of options. So besides, we require New Zealand will be the seventh of December five, five containers shipping to New Zealand. We are working together for Singapore, the first container ASAP. And then we’re doing Korea within weeks after that. And then UK, we’ve been working for a whole year. So we will be launching UK the latest 2022 February. So you know for me if I looked at all those country high blood sample careers for 51 million people that support our population.
Right, so even even if you’re at all the four countries I’m talking about, you’re talking about at least 120 million people. So we are at a stage where we really had to scale up at least three times more and that’s why we’re having second shifts. We put in more people. And then last year Tony we have up how we beat out we built a to our plants, factories brand new to cater for those for past silence.
Tony skinner 18:34
Yeah, look, you know, you definitely are a great success story. And it’s really impressive to see how well you’ve done. So I’m looking forward to the next part of the cocoa and Lucas story. And thank you very much for your time.
Thank you Tony. Thank you so much for having me on.
Tony skinner 18:53