Home-grown salad store chain SaladStop! has raised $5 million from private equity firms Hera Capital and DSG Consumer Partners as it forges ahead with expansion plans.
The funds - to be deployed over the next few years - will go towards growing the company's operations in Singapore and into new markets: Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan, said SaladStop! managing director Adrien Desbaillets. The investor firms, in turn, will take up an undisclosed minority stake in SaladStop!
"We definitely see huge opportunities in this part of the world. The growing middle class - that is what's fascinating with Asia right now," Mr Desbaillets, 35, told The Straits Times yesterday, adding that the firm has always been on the lookout for strategic long-term investors. "If you look at the trend towards healthy lifestyles or eating in Asia - it's generally still a new concept, but it's here to stay."
The company, which now has 15 outlets in Singapore and eight in the Philippines, aims to open two to three new outlets here each year over the next few years. It hopes to make its products available across more distribution points, such as fitness centres and office pantries.
Outside of the Republic, SaladStop! is slated to open its first shop in Jakarta next month, followed by Tokyo in November, and Hong Kong in the first quarter of next year. It expects to have 60 outlets across Asia by the end of 2018, well up from the 23 today. Mr Desbaillets said the company also hopes to venture into India, China and the Middle East further down the road.
On the technology front, SaladStop! is developing its online and mobile platforms to "elevate the whole customer experience", which will help bridge the convenience gap while making the firm's overall operations more efficient. "In future, you might be able to tap your smart watch at the salad bar, and it will give you a full breakdown of what you need. If you've only slept five hours the night before, for example, it will recommend this particular food or salad combination as an energy boost. That's the sort of detail that we're striving for," said Mr Desbaillets.
SaladStop! was founded by Mr Desbaillets and his father Daniel in 2009. The family-owned company, which employs more than 200 staff here, has seen double-digit growth each year since the opening of its first outlet in Marina Square.
Said Mr Desbaillets: "Two or three years ago, the Singapore market was already getting saturated, and there were also the manpower challenges. That was actually what first pushed us to grow overseas. For Singapore brands to succeed, they just have to look outside."