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Serving up meals with a purpose

These two honourees at the Brands for Good Awards 2019 are dishing out goodness through their businesses

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Jacinta Ong of Tea Ideas

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Canaan Healthfoods’ founder Quek Choon Geok

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Canaan Healthfoods flagship product Manna®

Tea Ideas: Championing inclusive employment

After almost 10 years as a banker, Jacinta Ong decided to pursue something more meaningful in her life. That led her to starting a business called Tea Ideas in 2012 that provides healthy tea products to consumers.

The company's main offering are known as Patented Tea Wands, which resemble sticks of candy and combine the functionality of a tea bag and a teaspoon. Another of their products is Gyokuro Green Tea that come in powder sachets. The firm is now experimenting with tea-inspired desserts such as Ice Pops, Earl Grey Cookies and Diabetic Friendly Snow-skin Mooncake. 

Tea Ideas currently operates one permanent retail outlet at Tan Tock Seng Hospital as well as several pop-up booths that change locations. From the start, Jacinta wanted to hire employees above 60 years of age, as she believed this would enable them to have a healthier lifestyle that could help stave off ailments such as dementia or chronic illnesses. These employees were given flexible arrangements or shorter working hours.

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Jacinta later decided to also hire staff who were suffering from kidney disease through a tie-up with the National Kidney Foundation. While the elderly staff start as store assistants and work their way up to a supervisory role, the younger renal patients take on sales or managerial positions.

Through working with these groups, Jacinta and her team have learnt to manage different types of people and adapt the way they operate to accommodate them. "Our group of aunties can sometimes be fixed in the way they do things, so we have to be respectful of their feedback when managing them," she said.

More recently, the company introduced a franchise programme to help Professionals, Managers and Executives who are unemployed. Unlike traditional franchise models with upfront fees to be paid, the company's hybrid version allows franchisees to pay through instalments with the profits that they earn. 

The company has continued to expand its social mission, and is currently working with disadvantaged children from Northlight School to train them as interns at Tea Ideas. The aim is to eventually employ some of them as full-time employees after they graduate.

For its innovative efforts at inclusive hiring, Tea Ideas was a Double Honouree at the Brands for Good 2019 Awards in the "Workplace - Diversity & Inclusion" and "Community - Business Model" categories.

Canaan Healthfoods: Speeding up patient recovery

For two decades, Canaan Healthfoods has been helping patients recover faster from surgeries through its flagship product Manna®; a liquid, high nutrient dense wholefood that supports the body before and after surgery. In particular, it helps cancer patients undergoing therapy and experiencing low blood count in the process to recover faster, enabling them to continue with their treatment.

Canaan Healthfoods’ founder Quek Choon Geok, a trained medical technologist, came across the wholefood that would become Manna® over 20 years ago while looking for a food supplement with high nutritional value that could help patients weather through health crises like surgery or cancer treatments. Manna® can be easily assimilated by the human body, an important benefit as most patients suffer from poor appetites after undergoing a surgical procedure.

"Nutrition was often overlooked when it came to the recovery process. I noticed that patients who came to the hospital for simple surgeries ended up with complications due to poor wound healing or post-op infection," said Ms Quek.

From the blood reports of patients who stopped treatment due to low blood count, she saw the condition reversed when they consumed Manna® and were able to continue treatment. She would then recommend the product to those who were preparing for surgery and found that they experienced a speedy wound recovery and a shorter stay in hospital.

After setting up Canaan Healthfoods, she has worked with the medical community to introduce Manna® to patients in Singapore. The product has been sold at Singapore General Hospital since 1996. Looking ahead, she is looking to expand her business into the other markets in Southeast Asia. Canaan Healthfoods was an Honouree at this year’s Brands for Good Awards in the "Community - Business Model" category.