Summer is well on its way in Singapore! The small island country is well known for its industrial beauty and its bustling business hub, but for those living there, it’s hard to forget the heat already setting it. No wonder, then, that ice cream is extremely popular – especially as an ever-growing middle class looks for places to spend their hard-earned treat money. We spoke with Peck Lin, who co-founded Singapore’s Udders Ice Cream with her husband David, about their creative solutions to a rather delicious demand.
“Udders Ice Cream is an award-winning, fun, casual, quirky brand that offers mouth-watering, unique flavours of ice cream with a big dose of cheeky humour,” Peck Lin declares happily. Instantly, it’s clear that this is a brand with a difference. Befitting of an ice cream company, David and Peck Lin have worked hard to create a company that is as fun-loving as their product itself – and clearly, it’s been well received. Their “proudly-made-in-Singapore” ice cream is available from five Scoop Shops and close to 100 retail points throughout the country, including supermarkets, convenience stores, iconic attractions like Gardens by the Bay, and various cafes and restaurants. Their ice creams are even finding their way into people’s flights! The brand is served regularly by Scoot Airlines, and in 2017, Singapore Airlines’ flights to Sydney served the Udders ice cream during the launch period of their new A380.
“We offer kickass, drool-worthy ice cream with unique flavours that is made with the best ingredients we can find. Our ice cream is vegetarian-friendly, without artificial colouring or flavouring, and is manufactured in a modern food factory with Singapore’s renowned standards of food safety and quality. Our primary demographic is folks between 16 to 40 years old, although everyone loves ice cream!”
When it comes to their product, Udders truly do everything: they research, create, test, manufacture, retail, distribute and sell their product through wholesale, as well as running their own food service outlets. Their “create-test-create-test-create-test” process, as Peck Lin describes it, is thorough, with great pride taken over every one of their creative flavours. Peck Lin sites this “obsession with product development” as one of the key traits that sets Udders apart from its rivals, as they constantly strive to put out the best flavours they can:
“The best and most fun thing about working with ice cream is that it lends itself to exuberant creativity. We love experimenting with new flavours and toppings and consistently churn out about 12 new flavours a year.”
There are more tempting sounding flavours at Udders than we have space to mention, including a range of exotic Asian flavours such as Kyoto Matcha, which uses green tea flown in straight from Kyoto Japan, The MaoTM , which tames the infamously pungent yet delicious Mao Shan Wang Durian fruit, and even a full range of Korean flavours such as Grapefruit Soju, Kimchi and Doenjang Caramel. They even offer a range of strong liquor flavours, including Rum Rum RaisinTM (3.9% alcohol), Tira-miss-uTM (Tiramisu 3.8% alcohol using brandy), WineBerriesTM (3.5% alcohol using port wine) and Lychee Martini (3% using vodka). “We need to have a liquor license in our shops in Singapore to sell these flavours,” explains Peck Lin. “This range offers a unique ‘adults only’ ice cream product, which gives it an edginess.”
We’re only scratching the surface of both ranges here; there’s enough mouth watering products to list for the entire article! However, some exciting flavours that must be mentioned include those created by Udders for notable clients and events, such as are Mocha Rocks, a Brazilian coffee flavour created for the 2014 World Cup, and a variety of bespoke flower-inspired flavours for Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay (a popular tourist attraction), including White Rose, Lavender and Orchid Vanilla. They even brought out a series of Star Wars inspired flavours! We couldn’t resist asking Pek Lin More: “In Dec 2017, in conjunction with the launch of the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we teamed up with Disney to launch a Star Wars inspired ice cream range. The flavours take inspiration from beloved characters such as Darth Vader (Dark Vanilla with Cranberries), Stormtroopers (Salted Malted Milk with Dark Chocolate), Yoda (Green Tea with Coconut Caramel) and Chewbacca (‘Chewy’ Fudge with Brownies).”
Perhaps most impressively, however, was Udders’ 2017 commission to create a bespoke sorbet for the Istana (aka ‘palace’ – in other words, the official residence and office of the President of Singapore). The creation was named the Istana Harvest Sorbet, and it is regularly served at the Istana during special events. Udders are also about to sell this high-profile sorbet themselves during the Istana’s open days, the proceeds of which they donate to charity.
Udders’ flavours show a true passion for what they do – one that seeks out unusual, high-quality ingredients to bring their customers a completely new ice cream experience. Their playful is also clear – a fitting attitude for a brand that is all about such a tasty treat! This attitude is no accident, and it’s something Pek Lin is committed to: “Who else would name their ice cream brand after a cow’s – ahem – tits? Udders doesn’t take life too seriously and neither does its ice cream. We play hard to make sure our brand personality across in our products!”
It’s a playful attitude, but Pek Lin and David are serious about business. In fact, before the couple founded Udders, the exuberant Pek Lin spent nine years as a management consultant in the areas of strategy planning, franchising and licensing. She also trained as a lawyer, and spent four years in legal practice, as well as three years in the Law Society of Singapore, where she worked on growing the Society’s legal pro bono programmes to aid the country’s under-privileged. You could call Udders quite a departure! In her words, she and her husband launched the brand “to birth a fun, innovative, energetic, quirky ice cream brand with a tongue in cheek wit.” Having co-founded the company in 2007 and begun full-time with it in 2012, she now oversees the branding, marketing and business development aspects of the business.
Fun-loving attitudes aside, the pair are serious about rising to and exceeding their competition, and in Singapore, competition is in rich supply. The small island hosts many rival brands, with the already mature industry seeing a recent swell in companies over the past five years. This creates a number of challenges, including downward price pressures, coupled with pressures within Singapore such as high rentals and manpower costs. Whilst they currently only sell and operate within the country, Udders are therefore starting to look overseas: “We are looking to overseas markets currently, and as Asia is slated to be the continent to watch economically in this century, we feel that our super premium ice cream is well-positioned for growth in this new Asia, with its fast-burgeoning middle class.”
In preparation for this growth, Udders are expanding their facilities in Singapore, which will allow a greater output both to target local competition and to potentially sell overseas. “In mid-2017, we shifted into a new office-cum-production premises that is three times bigger than our previous place (from 3000 sq ft to the current 9000 sq ft) in preparation for expansion. With the new space, we have invested into an automated continuous freezing production line for our ice cream, which will drive labour cost down per unit and also reduce wastage and increase efficiency.
As well as preparing for the production demands of overseas export, Udders are also looking to franchise, and are currently in talks with potential partners for overseas markets. They are also looking to develop their customer base, including investment in launching a new halal range of ice cream later this year, both to cater to the Muslim market in Singapore, and to increase Udders’ marketability in the Middle East. They will also launch a Nutrition, Health and Wellness range of ice cream later this year under a new brand, ‘NUUDE’. “NUUDE will a be healthy, clean label, 100% natural, free from any artificial colouring, flavouring, sweetener or preservatives, and with substantially lower calories to comply with the Singapore Health Promotion Board’s guidelines for ‘healthier choice’ ice cream.” Even though the products will be healthier, Udders say NUUDE’s ice cream will be just as delicious as their current products, and will also contain the benefits of superfoods such as acai berries, flax seeds and Moringa. “This is a guilt-free ice cream which retains all the childlike wonder and happiness of ice cream, yet offers the health and benefits of superfoods.”
Of course, no matter how ambitious a company becomes, or how high the quality of their product is, success begins and ends with a reliable and happy team of staff. In keeping with their happy-go-lucky attitude, Udders put the wellbeing of their staff first, and are dedicated to avoiding impersonal corporate mistakes: “Good leadership involves really caring for staff as three-dimensional, full-bodied, complex humans, rather than merely digits of work. Staff are people, and people are able to sense whether there is a genuine care for their well-being.”
Udders has over 100 employees. They place an emphasis on promotion from within where possible, and their company culture strives to make Udders a pleasant, positive place to work – in doing so, they feel they get the genuine best out of their staff. “You have to take the time to build a relationship with each person reporting to you and understand their unique strengths, weaknesses, personality – basically, what makes them tick. Managing people is can’t be a ‘system’.”
“Culture takes years to build and, being an ice cream company, having a friendly, creative, slightly off-beat work environment helps to generate the crazy, wonderful ideas that push our business and products forward.”
David and Peck Lin have clearly created a fun world for themselves, and it’s one that is gearing up to spread the joy as far as they can take it. Whatever your product, the world of business is one of financial risks and serious choices – especially when expansion is on the horizon – so how have the pair managed to maintain their up-beat attitude whilst staying competitive?
“Borrowing a line from the old Rocky movies, ‘It ain’t about how hard you hit – it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!'”
“Life is short, so take some risks. Remember that at the end of life, it’s usually not the things we did that we regret, but the things we did not do because we were afraid.”