79-year-old Penang coffee manufacturer gears up for nationwide expansion

GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s oldest surviving coffee manufacturer Sin Boon Kee Factory, which has served quality and aromatic coffee to Penangites for 79 years, is all geared up to expand its operations throughout Malaysia with more product variations.

Jonathan Chan Heng Liang, 31, the fourth generation successor, said the factory was founded by his great grandfather Chan Kok Tong in 1944 with the aim of catering only to local kopitiams in the state but he (Jonathan) had always dreamed big things for the company.

“I joined the company seven years ago and started by learning each step of the process in the factory, which took me two years. Once I got the hang of things, I started introducing new products and thankfully, my father has been very supportive and encouraging.

“I want to grow this company further, so among the changes I made were developing products for end-users such as three-in-one sachet drinks as well as opening our own coffee shop called SBK Coffee Concept Store in 2020,” he told Bernama.

Commenting on the production capacity, Jonathan said the company was able to produce up to 1,000 kg of coffee powder a day with the current manpower of 10 at the factory, adding that Sin Boon Kee Factory still utilised human capital in order to churn out the most aromatic and quality coffee.

He said all these products would then be delivered to its customers comprising 1,000 kopitiams/coffee shops throughout the country.

“We are a small factory but we have been supplying locally for more than 79 years. We are planning to move into a new factory also in Penang next year so that we are able to increase our capacity to cater to our increased operations including establishing more SBK Coffee Concept Store outlets,” he said.

He said there were a few shops in the pipeline, including two in Penang, as well as three to five kiosks in Kuala Lumpur.

Jonathan said the decision to set up its own coffee shop came after its newest product, the Royal Black Coffee, which was derived from four types of coffee bean, was rejected by kopitiam operators due to its more expensive price point.

“It tastes a bit different from the traditional ‘kopi o’ although it looks similar and the pricing is a bit expensive, so kopitiam operators cannot sell it. We have about 800 kopitiam customers in Penang and we got over 700 rejections.

“Normally, the coffee we supply to kopitiams is priced around RM15 per kg, but the Royal Black Coffee is priced around RM40 per kg. This is why we decided to open our own shop to sell the coffee, which is priced at RM5.90 a cup,” he said.

This proved to be a good decision, he said, as the current SBK Coffee Concept Store in Jalan Jelutong had managed to garner over 5,000 loyalty card members so far.

Meanwhile, his father Chan They Lin, 57, who is the third generation successor, said he was very pleased when Jonathan decided to take over the family business after graduating from Help University in Kuala Lumpur and hence continue the family legacy.

“I got my business knowledge from my father and we tended to do business in a more conservative way. My son, on the other hand, is very adventurous. Traditionally, we only operated using internal funds but after my son took over, we started getting working capital from banks to grow the business further,” he added. – Bernama

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