Aisy Berjaya to debut food pouches at MSME Festival

After losing her job in 2016, Yati revived her home business by selling bottled drinks currently in supermarkets. Now she's looking to branch out with a range of frozen food pouches

The smell of curried spices wafts through Norredahayati Abdullah’s home in Panaga, Seria, as she stirs a wok filled with beef rendang at a small kitchen extension before scooping them into retort pouches designed to be reheatable in a microwave or in boiling water.

The 46-year-old – the sole person behind Aisy Berjaya – is on schedule to produce hundreds of food pouches for the upcoming MSME Festival taking place this March 28 to 31 at Bridex.

“This will be the first time I introduce the food pouches to the (mass) public under my Yati Barrel brand,” says the mother of seven, who began selling the pouches through Instagram earlier this year. “We’ll be rolling out five flavours: (seafood) tom yam, beef rendang, prawn in sambal, kunyit chicken and lamb curry.”

Each $4 to $7 pack weighs a generous 500 grammes – enough to feed two to four people – and Yati is hoping to catch the eye of supermarkets and distributors as well to supply her pouches to their freezers.

The previous iteration of the MSME Festival – called the Made in Brunei Market Fair (MIBMF) – was critical in helping Yati revive her home business Aisy Berjaya, paving the way for her line of lemongrass drinks to be supplied to One Station in Mentiri.

Beef rendang (R), sambal prawns (L) and kunyit (turmeric) chicken (C) from Yati’s Barrel’s food puch. Yati says the food pouches can be stored in the freezer for six months.

It’s been two years since MIBMF, but the idea for packaged food actually came ten years ago, when Yati was experimenting with starting her own business.

“I was attending a business course in Korea (sponsored by the government) and it was hard to find Halal food,” she said. She picked up on the idea of ready-to-eat meal rations in pouches from her cousin in the military, and before leaving, decided to put her own spin on it by freezing homecooked food into retort bags.

“While we didn’t have a kitchen (in Korea), there was a water kettle that we could use. So every day, I would reheat and eat a little of the food that I brought,” she said with a laugh.

Yati went ahead and registered Aisy Berjaya in 2008, but her business aspirations were put on hold after she secured a job in the oil and gas industry. Eight years later however, she found herself out of a job in the industry’s downturn, with her employer exiting Brunei after losing their main contract.

Her husband – who also works in oil and gas – was able to hold onto his job, but with seven children to raise, Yati spent the December of 2016 mulling over what new opportunities she could pursue to provide for her family.

“I suddenly found myself unemployed and in my 40s with seven kids it wasn’t easy to find another job straight away,” she said.

Her mother who also runs a home business called Demala selling herbal powders, offered Yati to share a booth with her at MIBMF. Yati decided she would turn her mother’s powders into bottled drinks with coconut and pandan jelly.

“I only brought 50 bottles on the first day of MIBMF because I wasn’t sure how the turnout and response was going to be,” she said. “In a few hours it was sold out so I came back the next day with a 100 bottles, and then 200 bottles on the final day. They all sold out.”

As production for her bottled drinks stabilised and three of her children secured jobs, Yati decided at the end of last year that it was time to revisit her idea for food pouches. Early batches have received a warm response from her customers; praising its affordability and wholesome taste in comparison to processed canned food or frozen dinners.

“I’ve begun the process of applying for Halal and made a small partitioned area in my kitchen specifically for my business,” she said. “I’ve also started looking into things such as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) with the help of the authorities so I still have a long way to go – but I’m willing to give it a go.”

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