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When not running a biomedical company, these M’sian sisters are making low-cal ice cream

Kimberley is a scientist, while her sister Nicola is a yoga instructor. At least, that’s the summarised version of the story they’ll have you believe.

In reality, Kimberley and Nicola run a life science and biomedical company offering transplantation solutions such as kidney and bone marrow transplants.

“The legal type, not the one where you wake up in the bathtub full of ice,” Kimberley, who has a background in immunology, jokingly added. “My sister focuses on the operations of the company, whereas I am more focused on the technical aspect of it.”

Image Credit: OohLaLa

Now, you might be wondering—what do a life science and biomedical background have anything to do with the enticing ice cream pasted all over this article? And the answer is everything.

Having run their biomedical business for eight years and counting, it became apparent to Kimberley that the rates of people with last-stage renal failure every year are much higher than the hundreds of kidney transplants Malaysia performs every year.

“This means that our current waitlist of 23,000 patients will steadily increase year-on-year at a scary rate,” she explained.

It’s known that the main cause of end-stage renal failure is diabetes, but the sisters don’t think that sugar is inherently evil, though too much of it can obviously be a problem.

“We believe that the right balance is achievable—where you can have your cake, eat the cherry too, and hit the gym after,” Kimberley said.  

So, with nothing but a small ice cream maker and a plethora of journals and textbooks on ice cream science, Kimberley and Nicola set off on a journey to launch their own ice cream brand, now known as OohLaLa.

An extensive R&D process

Kimberley’s expertise in DNA sequencing, microbiology and food safety, cryogenics, and other “geeky science stuff” came into handy when developing the ice cream from OohLaLa, which took about a year to complete.

“We aimed to create a low-calorie/low-sugar ice cream that was all-natural, but yet had the texture and mouthfeel of premium ice cream,” she explained.

In short, they wanted to make “better-for-you premium ice cream that would taste absolutely delicious.”

“And when I say delicious ice cream, we’re talking dense, creamy, make your toes curl, satisfies you with an ‘UMPH’,” she clarified. “But of course, would not give you diabetes 10 years later.”

To do that, the sisters tried all kinds of sugar alcohols and dug through journals and papers to learn about the effects of these sweeteners.

“Some sweeteners were a big no-no for us, because of the risks,” Kimberley pointed out. “For example, Maltitol is a common and cheap sweetener that is used in low-sugar food items but is notoriously known to be a laxative and can cause intense diarrhoea in some.”

At the end of their research, the sisters landed on working with erythritol as it was the most gut-friendly option they found.

When not running a biomedical company, these M’sian sisters are making low-cal ice cream

OohLaLa also uses stevia leaf extract as it’s a natural ingredient. However, Kimberley says it’s a difficult ingredient to work with, as too much can cause a “nasty bitter aftertaste”. Thus, it took some time to find the perfect ratio of ingredients for the ice cream.

The sisters also use fresh whole milk, kampung egg yolks, chocolates from French brand Valrhona, ceremonial grade matcha, whole vanilla beans, and no artificial flavouring or chemical emulsifiers.

Flavours are created after surveying for “top hits” and asking the community what they want to see from OohLaLa next.

“From the beginning, we were intent on making a premium product that was whole foods and with only the best ingredients,” Kimberley shared. “In short, we would not put out something that we would not consume ourselves.”

Addressing the premium market

As Kimberley put it, “Ice cream is the perfect matrix for creative exploration and a staple to Malaysians.”

That might explain why there are so many other ice cream brands that have popped up in the country. This includes names such as Calli, Wolf Pints, and Kind Kones, just to name a few.  

When not running a biomedical company, these M’sian sisters are making low-cal ice cream
Image Credit: OohLaLa7

However, while the sisters say they’re fans of the brands, they believe that OohLaLa addresses a market gap left between other healthy ice cream brands in Malaysia.  

“Kind Kones addresses the vegan market so we’re not exactly in the same scene,” Kimberley mentioned.  “Calli and Wolf Pints are great products as well. These brands address a low-calorie USP, meaning the push is for the lowest calorie.”

Calli’s option is also dairy-free, making it a better option for lactose-intolerant or vegan consumers.

Meanwhile, Kimberley believes the market gap OohLaLa addresses is entirely different—premium ice cream consumers.

This means that the sisters refused to create a product that would cut some calories but ended up creating a less enjoyable mouthfeel.  

When not running a biomedical company, these M’sian sisters are making low-cal ice cream

“Our number one priority is to create a decadent product that comes with the best ingredients, has a satisfying mouthfeel, is dense and creamy, and replicates the texture of premium ice cream,” Kimberley said. “Think Häagen-Dazs, but healthier.”

OohLaLa’s ice creams go from RM29.90 to RM32.90 for a 450ml tub depending on the flavours.

To compare, a pint (473ml) of Calli’s So Matcha Better is RM33.90, while OohLaLa’s Matcha & Roasted Mochi Rice is RM29.90. Calories-wise, Calli’s is 65 calories per serving, while OohLaLa has 103 calories per serving.

That’s still quite a drop from the 310 calories per serving you get with a 14oz (about 397g) Häagen-Dazs Matcha Green Tea ice cream.

Our managing director, Sarah, has personally tried OohLaLa’s ice creams and was “very impressed”, finding it hard to believe that their calories were that low per serving.

Ice cream for all

The sisters are still involved with their full-time jobs, and don’t appear to be leaving them any time soon.

However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t taking OohLaLa seriously, having established a production site with their own kitchen staff.

The team now also caters for events and creates ice cream for other businesses that order OEM products from them.

“Right now, we’re focusing on creating the best possible product and building a community of people that love OohLaLa ice creams,” Kimberley shared. “As for long-term plans, the sky’s the limit!”

  • Learn more about OohLaLa here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: OohLaLa


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