Name : Cho Lei Aung
Position : Owner of Tree Food Traditional Sweets
Cho Lei Aung is a medicine graduate and a young entrepreneur who brought Myanmar’s traditional sweet “jaggery” into the spotlight with her innovative ideas for its packaging and flavours. Jaggery is made from toddy palm juice and traditionally served after a main meal to aid digestion.
How and when did you establish this Tree Food brand?
When I was young, I wanted to be a scientist but my parents didn’t want me to become one as it doesn’t guarantee a job in our country. Thus, I attended the University of Medicine. After finishing university, I realised that I didn’t want to be a doctor. I thought of establishing my own business and I started a tailoring shop with my sister. After some time, I wanted to do other business and I had an interest in the food industry. One day, I was eating lunch at a restaurant and I somehow ended eating jaggery after my meal. The jaggery block was not small enough for me to finish and I thought about making a bite size block so that it would not go to waste. I was very curious about the jaggery so I even went to meet the jaggery makers and asked them why they don’t make bite size blocks. They said that the process of making jaggery is complicated and it is not possible to them like that. I didn’t give up and tried to cut the large blocks into small ones and I was finally able to make it. After that I became interested in the jaggery business. It took me about two years to experiment with flavors and recipes and I entered the market in September, 2015, with the name “ Tree Food”.
Did you face any challenges?
I had lots of challenges, like lack of adequate supply, office works, and employee problems. I’m still facing those but of course I always try my best to solve such challenges, one after another.
Please tell me about the Tree Food jaggery flavours and packaging design?
Currently, there are five different flavours: lemon, yogurt, ginger and plum. I chose these flovours meticulously. Lemon jaggery has a refreshing scent and it is good for nausea. Yogurt is famous among children and foreigners. Ginger is good for youths as it is rich in iron. Plum is a bit spicy and it has an Oriental flavour. My products are free from artificial flavouring and they have rich taste that makes them worth the price. As for packaging, I sold them in bottles at first. But to save on cost and, as I have great interest in arts and crafts, I now sell them in paper bags with my drawings on them. The Tree Food logo is also my own creation which represents the three seasons of Myanmar.
Where do you get the main ingredient, toddy palm sap?
From Pa Kok Ku and Kyauk Pa Daung as toddy farms are abundant in those places.
Where do you sell Tree Food products?
At the moment, the products can be purchased at 16 City Mart branches, including Ocean and MarketPlace, Sein Gay Har and Mithasu Marts, Mandalay Airport and also available in Dawei.
Do you export your products overseas? There is no mass export at present but I suppose in the future, they may be seen in other countries.
Do you export your products overseas?
There is no mass export at present but I suppose in the future, they may be seen in other countries.
Do you have any plans to produce new products?
Yes, I have. I am in the middle of experimenting with new products. I’m not yet sure which one will come out first.
Any advice for youths who want to start their own business?
Actually it is not easy to establish your own business. You need to have unique ideas and great interest in the business you are doing. You should continue no matter how difficult it gets. You must not kill your idea just because it gets harder to implement. You should protect your own idea at all costs and give it a try when you get the chance.