Welcome to another whirling issue of the Marketing Expert Series!

In this issue is a digital marketer whose attention to detail and passion has carried her through multiple industries and career paths. Brenda Hobin is the Marketing Director at Shiok Meats, and she knows what it means to adapt to challenges and grow your marketing funnel. Join us as Brenda takes us through not only her own story but the story of Shiok Meats, the challenges and obstacles faced and overcome, and what it takes to be a great marketer in a trying age.

Hi, Brenda, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with a little background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?

Thank you, Olwen! I’ve had an exciting career and portfolio journey.

From the airline industry, non-government organizations, fast-moving consumer goods, luxury brands, hotels, real estate, master planning, HoReCa, and sailing to the marketing of golf courses. I have also been involved in pro-bono activities such as fundraising to procure necessities to feed the poor or empower children of humble backgrounds to pursue an education, my way of giving back to society. I studied psychology, criminology, sustainable economics, and innovation. The diversity of the industries, combined with my educational qualifications, gave me an edge in deciphering human behaviours and actions. Different backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures dictate how a similar product or message is perceived.

These insights are crucial, as they are the key to understanding human desires and pain points. By understanding these behaviours, we can create products, campaigns, and messages that are relatable and solve a problem or need. My husband, family, and the people I met and worked with play an essential role in my life; because of them, I am where I am today, and probably because of them, I will be where I will be tomorrow or in the future.

You’re the Marketing Director at Shiok Meats. Can you tell us a bit about Shiok Meats and the product philosophy you have?

Shiok Meats was launched in August 2018 in Singapore by Dr. Sandhya Sriram and Dr. Ka Yi Ling. They both have PhDs in stem cell biology and come from scientific backgrounds. Sandhya is also a seasoned entrepreneur. They firmly believe a sustainable solution was required to feed the ever-increasing population without creating additional pressure on the otherwise declining ocean health. They started in a lab with two founders, and today the company has an agile team of 35+ scientists, researchers, food technologists, and business professionals working on a path-breaking technology and building a manufacturing plant of its own.

If you take a shrimp, deshell, devein it, and remove the organs, you are left with muscle and fat cells. This is the part Shiok Meats cultivate, and the same goes for crab, lobster, and red meat. From a taste point of view, the taste is the same with seafood and crustaceans. The flavour comes from the cells themselves and also the liquid nutrients that we feed the cells for them to grow. It is a combination of the two, exactly what happens in nature. The stem cell comes from the animal initially, and we trick these cells into believing they are still inside the animal’s body. We feed them what the animal would give them. These stem cells are grown in large stainless steel tanks, known as bioreactors. Think of a big tank, where trillions of cells are floating around in a liquid medium (liquid nutrients), much like a brewery. By the end of four to six weeks, the cells have increased so much that we perform a step called differentiation, which triggers these stem cells to form the organ they are supposed to form – muscle and fat – the final product. Our final product looks, tastes, and cooks like meat. Our products are all minced, and we are working on a structure (whole shrimp, for example) for the near future.

We are building a system wherein we work with many different animal-free growth factors, food-grade media, and plant-based alternatives that have the potential to yield at scale and lower price points. Some of these are being developed in-house, while we are leveraging strategic partnerships with media development companies for some others. We are also looking at the apparent by-products and upcycling cell media for flavouring mixes and essences. Overall, we are ramping up the construction of our pilot production facility in Singapore to speed up large-scale manufacturing and launch in at least one premium restaurant in 2023.
We want Shiok Meats to be the world leader in cultivated seafood and meat technology. If that means expanding the suite of product offerings to other kinds of meat, poultry, seafood, and other by-products, we are going for it.

What role do you play as Marketing Director? Is there a part of your role you enjoy most?

Currently, I am focusing on the higher marketing funnels, from branding and creating awareness to building a community of mindful consumers. We aim to encourage and influence a mindset shift toward consuming sustainably-grown crustaceans and meats. I am incredibly psyched about building a team of marketers who shares our passion for sustainable living.

How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your own strategies? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since the start of 2020? How have you overcome them?

Shiok Meats was founded to mitigate the challenges of feeding a growing population ethically and sustainably. COVID-19 only reiterated the fact that we are on the right track. The food supply chain has faced severe disruption. Our patent-pending food technology will only create a favourable condition for self-sufficiency at a national level benefitting the people. If anything, COVID-19 has accelerated and brought attention to what we are doing locally, regionally, and globally.

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry?

There was a greater reliance on digital news and platforms during the lockdown period. We are part of the growing and evolving digital ecosystem. There is no turning back, given the history of how people have accepted digital as the new norm. What is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. The start of lasting impact began a long time ago if we look at the adoption rate of the internet or the proliferation of the use of the new social media channels.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

As marketers, we must stay tuned and sync with the changes and evolution of communication channels, including digital transformation. The brand strategies, story-telling, and content must align with changing human developments, needs, and desires. Marketing messaging must be relatable. Marketers’ ability to accurately nail down all the touchpoints affects go-to-market strategies.

Any advice you’d give to young and/or aspiring marketers?

Stay humble, stay curious. Make “Being an Expert Marketer” a lifelong aspiration.

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Brenda, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Shiok Meats?

It is an honour to share what we do with you and your readers. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!

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