Exclusive: Nicko Jeep Manufacture founder Kenny Low on building his candy empire

The man behind Himalaya Salt Sports Candy talks about building a successful business in an ever-evolving market.

Born and bred in Negeri Sembilan, Kenny Low was raised in a family of confectionery wholesalers (Photography by SooPhye)

It could have gone one of two ways. Born into a family of confectionery wholesalers, Kenny Low grew up with unfettered access to sweets and treats. He could have sworn off the stuff forever … or made it his calling. He chose the latter.

“You thought Nicko Jeep was a jeep manufacturer, right?” he laughs. “From a young age, I was surrounded by all things snack-related. I gravitated towards candy like any other kid; I ate everything.

“When I was old enough, I helped out in the family business until I created my own brand in 1998. I wanted to sell candy specifically but it’s a very competitive market. So, I thought, how do I offer something no one else had? I decided to buy toys and candy separately and package them together under my own brand. Some of the toys were little jeeps; they were very popular, so we used that in our name. The word ‘Nicko’ doesn’t really have any meaning. We didn’t give it much thought; it was just a sellable and popular product.”

Through the changes that followed — the phasing out of the original logo that featured a jeep, the venture into candy manufacturing in 2001 — the name remained. Frustrated with delays and disruptions in the supply chain as well as the saturation in the wholesale industry, moving into manufacturing was a natural progression for Low. With it came experimentation with marketing and sales tactics. Toys in confectionery had become too common, so he abandoned that strategy. Instead, he began focusing on the product itself, playing around with candy shapes and packaging design.

“Lollipops are pretty unimaginative, it’s usually a ball or a flat, round head on a stick,” he says. To stand out, he created Big Foot Lollipops — no prizes for guessing what shape the colourful sweets came in. Other shapes ranging from hands to hearts were introduced but it was the feet-shaped crystalline lollipops that left their footprint on the candy landscape. “People associate us more with Big Foot — that’s how they recognise us,” says Low. “Nicko Jeep is not very canggih lah as a brand, so we usually go by Big Foot.”


Playing in candy land

The eldest of four siblings, born and bred in Tampin, Negeri Sembilan, Low realised that exposure to wholesaling had equipped him with transferable skills in marketing and sales. Manufacturing, however, was a different ballgame altogether. First, there was the candy itself: he had to create tasty treats out of thin air.



For the full story, pick up a copy of The Edge Malaysia (Oct 19, 2020) at your nearest news stand. Save by subscribing to us for your print and/or digital copy.

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