Pahang orchard opens Musang King cafés for all things durian, maximising farmers’ profits

Durian cendol has become commonplace to find at most roadside rojak trucks around Malaysia. Now, it appears that durian cheesecakes, durian mochi, and even durian pizza are emerging from local and imported brands.

Coming into the scene to hone this market is D.MasKing, a durian speciality store creating sweet and savoury dishes from Musang King durians.

It was first introduced in April 2021 at Bentong, Pahang, equipped with its own kitchen and dine-in area; in December 2021, another at Lot 10, KL cropped up.

The intention of the brand is to fulfil its parent company, DSR Taiko Berhad’s (DSR) goal of becoming an integrated orchard-to-market durian player in Malaysia.

“We aim to bring a consistent all-year supply of downstream durian products to the rakyat and expand our market by increasing the number of stores to major cities nationwide,” said Dato’ Ng Lian Poh, CEO of DSR.

For clarity, DSR Taiko is the parent company of DSR Fruits (fruits wholesaler) and D.MasKing (durian speciality restaurant).

If you can’t change the seasons, change how you capitalise

Despite considering himself a relative newcomer, Dato’ Lian Poh is no stranger to the durian plantation industry. His 1.37-hectare IoT durian plantation in Raub, Pahang was set up with his business partner, Ng Soh Kian in 2017, with the aim of increasing the demand and supply for Raub Musang King durians.

DSR even pooled together durian smallholders to help them expand their operations for sustainable year-round income. Dato’ Lian Poh figured that while the seasonality of durian can’t be changed, the team could help transform how owners earn from the fruits.

“Instead of just focusing on each season’s earnings from upstream fruits, we convinced some of these owners to segregate a portion of their durian to develop downstream products, so that they could enjoy sustainable income all year round,” Dato’ Lian Poh told Vulcan Post.

A match made in the market

2020 was the year Dato’ Lian Poh marked as the company’s turning point. At the time, DSR formed a joint venture with local sweet corn brand, Daily Fresh to develop, produce, and distribute speciality durian-based products.

The partnership was a calculated one. Daily Fresh already had a successful retail and distribution network spanning 1,600 kiosks in 16 countries, a manufacturing facility, and proven product development expertise.

DSR and Daily Fresh went on to offer durian truffle popcorn, Musang King gelato, along with Musang King gelato-filled croissants, puffs, waffles, and tarts at Daily Fresh stores around Malaysia.

While this collaboration was ongoing, Dato’ Lian Poh already had his own durian flagship store brewing in the background. It can also be said that these durian products were the company’s way of testing the market’s reception for durian-based products.

In April 2021, D.MasKing—short for Durian Malaysian King—was launched in Bentong, Pahang to serve the public downstream durian products.

Durians galore

The concept of D.MasKing is interesting, seeing that the F&B outlets are set up to serve durian products through familiar sweet and savoury foods. But from my perspective, durians in their raw form are highly sought after by Malaysians, and durian buffets are the proof of this.

So I had to ask Dato’ Lian Poh why he needed to go the extra mile to serve a large variety of durian dishes? What benefits did he see in developing downstream products for the Malaysian market?

He replied that he sees a triple-win proposition:

Customers are always looking for something new;
Farmers become more open to exploring longer-term collaborations;
If it succeeds, it’s a concept Malaysians can be proud of.
“We also think that our D.MasKing products are inclusive. Some people who may not fancy the pungent smell actually like our durian gelato, for example, for the burst of flavour without being too intense,” Dato’ Lian Poh pointed out. “There’s something for everyone, and so the fan base becomes bigger!”

The most popular items on the D.MasKing menu are currently the Raub Musang King Cendol, Extreme Musang King Pizza (RM39.90-RM49.90), and Musang King Gelato (RM29.90 for a 400ml tub). Dato’ Lian Poh shared that the response so far has been positive, and the team will continue curating new products to appeal to more people.

With two D.MasKing outlets already in West Malaysia (the newest one is at Lot 10), the team isn’t slowing down. Dato’ Lian Poh disclosed that the team is currently scouting for a suitable location in the Southern region.

There are also plans for D.MasKing kiosks within shopping malls for ready-to-eat products, much like Daily Fresh’s business model.

“Apart from this, we will also offer a specialised D.MasKing menu in Daily Fresh Foods Kiosks globally, allowing us to greatly leverage on their captive audience and choice locations,” Dato’ Lian Poh foresees.

Covering greater grounds

Other than expanding its outlets, D.MasKing is eyeing the overseas markets.

“Especially in the Middle East market, where durians from Malaysia accounted for less than 1% in 2020. We believe there is huge potential to be tapped into in the long run; the D.MasKing era is only just beginning,” Dato’ Lian Poh said.

D.MasKing appears to be DSR’s method of establishing its own supply and demand network, cutting out the middleman. In the bigger picture, this could serve to benefit farmers, the company itself, and its customers as the supply chain becomes more traceable, and quality can be maintained in-house.

This seems to be something Dato’ Lian Poh has in mind too. 

Our idea is to catapult the durian industry to be a formidable sector, not one that is only dependent on volume and escalating prices, and only accessible to those who could afford it. Making original and quality products available to every consumer starts at the beginning, be it to establish new standards, set up a traceable orchard-to-consumer system, adopt IoT and establishing a wide distribution network.”

Dato’ Ng Lian Poh, CEO and co-founder of DSR Taiko Berhad

And there’s a lot of potential in doing so, considering the loyal fanbase of durian lovers not just in Malaysia, but overseas too.

Source: Vulcan Post