The Malaysian love affair with sickly sweet teh tarik has reached such proportions to alarm the sugar industry. But don’t worry, help is at hand.
Stevia- that well regarded sugar substitute is now being manufactured by young entrepreneurs Anas Lufti Norman and Amirah Jasmine to give consumers an alternative for all the sweetness of sugar but without the side effects.
Aptly named Potonguler, which means cutting down on sugar in Bahasa Malaysia, claims to offer the world’s first sweetened condensed milk with zero white sugar called the Potonguler Susu Pekat Manis Le Ting Penuh Krim.
Potonguler is in response to problem plaguing Malaysia - diabetes, which is fast becoming in crisis as more than 3.6 million Malaysians are diabetic
“Le Ting means magnificent in Kelantanese. We are paying tribute to our mother who’s had a brush with diabetes,” says Anas.
Potonguler is in response to problem plaguing Malaysia - diabetes, which is fast becoming in crisis as more than 3.6 million Malaysians are diabetic, and that number is only expected to increase.
“If you drink one cup of teh tarik with sweetened condensed milk, it’s about 140 calories per cup. If you have more than one, you’ve exceeded your daily amount of sugar intake”
“But with Potonguler, a cup of teh tarik would only consist of 50 calories. Our product uses a sugar alternative called stevia, a type of sweetener derived from a plant,” Anas says while preparing a cup of teh tarik made with Potonguler.
The product is used to sweeten drinks or even used as a sugar substitute for cake recipes. The low glucose, low calorie product is priced at seven ringgit for a 350 gram package.
“My goal is to have people say instead of teh tarik kurang manis, they will order teh tarik Potonguler in the future.”
“My family has been involved in the diabetic industry for over 10 years now. Back then, stevia was just recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration but it was still not as popular in Malaysia.”
Growing up, Anas and his sister fully immersed themselves in their father’s stevia business. But for them to really become passionate about the business they needed to understand the struggles of a diabetic patient.
So, as teenagers their father would take them to visit diabetic centres across Malaysia.
“When I was 18-years old, my father would take us to places like Kedah or Penang to visit diabetic patients. We would volunteer at the centre by cleaning their wounds. And hearing their battle with diabetes was so heart-wrenching.”
“I want Potonguler to more than just a product, it’s a way of life because our health is at stake,” he adds.
Founded in November of last year, the home-grown company began official operations in February 2018 and have sold more than 5000 packets since. Selling their products to mostly family, friends, halal marts and online.
I want Potonguler to more than just a product, it’s a way of life because our health is at stake.
Hidden away in the quaint suburban area of Setia Alam, Anas and his team round the clock- mixing, cooking and packing their products for deliveries he would drop-off himself.
“We’ve invested our money, time and effort. Right now, we are in the early stages of building our company, we are just trying to get Potonguler out there.”
“We are producing our products in small quantities but as we increase our production, the cost would reduce since we’d purchase materials in bulk.”
However, is an excessive amount of Potonguler bad for our health in the long run?
“I can assure you that our contains 70% milk, 30% sweetener which consist of stevia, oligofructose (alternative sweetener) and emulsifier (soy lecithin).”
“Consumers need to take into consideration that everything enjoyed excessively is bad for you.”
“We are not trying to replace sugar completely but we are simply providing a healthier alternative for those who wish to still enjoy the sweeter things in life,” he says with a smile.
There’s of course no way of knowing what new challenges and possibilities will emerge for Potonguler as they now enter the first phase of expanding their company.
But Anas is confident the future of his product will be bright.
“I believe there isn’t a product like ours that’s out there right now. Not many sugar alternatives taste and comes in a similar consistency as sweetened condensed milk.”
“We are looking for potential investors, partners for distribution and marketing. We are open for anyone who’d be willing to be a part of this journey.”
“It’s not just about making money, we want to achieve so much more than that.”
“I believe that this product can really help those suffering with diabetes or for anyone who’d like to reduce their sugar intake,” states Anas.
The Potonguler team is currently in the process of creating a new range dairy-free product for those lactose intolerance.
“I want Malaysians to embrace this product. By reducing our sugar, we can combat diabetes and people can start living their lives to the fullest,” says Anas.