Due to family poverty, F.E. Chong was malnourished as a child. In his teen years, he was diagnosed with a serious case of arthritis and had to rely on painkillers to do simple tasks like climbing the stairs.
Unfortunately, his immune system further weakened and he eventually developed solar urticaria, a rare allergy that causes hives to form on the skin when exposed to the sun.
As he entered his thirties, things took a turn for the worse and Chong had to battle asthma and hypercholesterolemia.
“I remember vividly what my doctor told me: ‘It is a miracle that you are even alive’,” Chong recounted.
His doctor advised against the heavy reliance on medications and instead recommended a nutritional regime. Feeling desperate, Chong signed up for a nutritional course and met a mentor who was determined to help him.
The mentor prescribed a strict 80% raw, wholly plant-based diet. In just three months, Chong’s supposedly incurable problems were reversed and normalised.
“I felt that it was necessary for me to repay my mentor by propagating this philosophy to the world, offering guidance in preventing and possibly reversing chronic diseases to those who are in need,” he said. “It is more of a purpose than a career.”
That story and purpose are what fuel his business, NATURECARE.LIFE.
From lessons to products
At first, Chong was simply a lifestyle coach, highlighting plant-based diets and other non-food factors that can influence the quality of nutrition.
“However, a big majority also lamented to me that they were unable to follow the diet due to unconducive environmental factors,” Chong shared. “At that time, there were no alternative solutions available.”
So, he set out on a journey to fix that. After doing research in food technology, Chong decided to start a production line using vacuum freeze-drying technology to manufacture raw, plant-based, wholefood supplements. This allows people to easily adopt raw, low-fat, and plant-based diets.
It sounds simple, but the research can be rather intensive. Chong himself has a Master of Sciences in Nutrition and is the lead nutritionist at NATURECARE.LIFE.
NATURECARE.LIFE’s berrynice is a mixed berry chia blend / Image Credit: NATURECARE.LIFE
“Depending on the complexity, it could take any time from months to years to perfect a product,” he explained. “Not only do we care about nutrition, but our products must also be tasty to appeal to the market.”
The idea for products usually comes from the feedback of clients, families, and friends. The team studies emerging health issues and then formulate solutions that involve edible fruits, vegetables, and even algae.
Before a product can even be considered as a candidate for pilot production, rounds of sensory tests and refinement are first conducted. Then, it goes through the pilot group evaluation and further refinements accordingly.
To ensure the utmost quality, the sourcing of materials is also taken seriously. According to Chong, the team visits other states or even abroad to personally assess suppliers.
A happy, cubical accident
One of the most fascinating and recognisable products from NATURECARE.LIFE is its Zero Cubes. On Shopee, it’s one of the company’s top-sellers second only to organic chia seeds.
F.E. Chong is the founder and lead nutritionist at NATURECARE.LIFE / Image Credit: NATURECARE.LIFE
Zero Cubes are essentially snacks with nutritive value. Made with real foods and devoid of any additives, this is supposed to be a healthy replacement for junk food.
Typically, NATURECARE.LIFE’s products are carefully developed as the result of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of academic journals and research papers. But the first Zero Cubes were actually made by accident.
“We were initially aiming to create a nutritive plant-based dairy replacement but ended up with an addictive snack just by adjusting the production procedure a little bit,” Chong said.
According to Chong, the Zero Cubes can be even healthier than store-bought fruits. This is as fruits sold in grocery stores are harvested before they are ripe and ready to be consumed, which makes them inferior in nutrition value when compared to the sun-ripen fruits NATURECARE.LIFE uses.
Plus, the Zero Cubes (among other NATURECARE.LIFE’s products) are designed to be convenient. No cleaning, cutting, or preparing is required.
The mouthfeel is like that of a meringue cookie—flaky and light
We were able to get our hands on some cocoa and coffee Zero Cubes. They had a meringue-like texture in the mouth, melting completely and prone to sticking to your teeth (but not tough to get out).
While the cocoa ones were slightly sweeter than the coffee ones, my colleague noted that they all had a slightly bitter and medicinal aftertaste, which isn’t surprising since they are plant-based and packed with healthy superfoods. However, the aftertaste isn’t unpleasant or a hindrance to enjoying the Zero Cubes.
Relying on nature
When asked about how NATURECARE.LIFE’s supplements differ from vitamin pills, Chong pointed out that those supplements are more drugs than food.
“No human can live solely on isolated, synthetic, or extracted nutrients; we must eat foods created by nature in order to survive,” he claimed.
He believes that conventional supplements are still popular because people are told vitamins and minerals can be isolated and synthesised to give the same health benefits as nutrients found working together in organic foods.
“It’s a fatally-flawed point of view,” he said. “Whole foods are highly complex, containing an immense amount of nutrients. These nutrients function synergistically, acting as co-factors to one another. They simply cannot be duplicated and put into a pill small enough to be swallowed.”
Zero Cubes come in a variety of flavour / Image Credit: NATURECARE.LIFE
Chong quotes the famous line “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” to explain his argument, saying that apples cannot be created from scratch in a laboratory.
“As the scientist Dr Carl Sagan once aptly put it, if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe,” Chong expressed.
Kids are the future
NATURECARE.LIFE believes that the younger generation is more concerned about animal welfare, personal health, and the climate crisis. This makes the Gen Z and millennial groups prime audiences for their plant-based products.
The collaboration NATURECARE.LIFE has had with popular brands such as Niko Neko Matcha and Chuck’s is evidence of their marketing efforts towards young adults.
“With younger generations motivated to lower their environmental impact now more than ever, we are confident that plant-based foods are set to dominate the economy in near future,” Chong said.
Learn more about NATURECARE.LIFE here.Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.