The Jakarta Post
Consumers look for more food variety during the pandemic. (Shutterstock/Guiderom)
This article is part of The Jakarta Post’s "Forging the New Norm" special coverage series, on how people are forging their lives anew to adjust to the new realities of COVID-19 in Indonesia.
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the lives of many. As the virus has spread exponentially, businesses have been forced to temporarily stop operating and many jobs have been lost.
In such a time, however, online culinary businesses serve as an attractive opportunity for some to start a new venture.
Yohanes Sandy who recently established an online culinary venture is among these new players.
Sandy told The Jakarta Post that he had actually been wanting to develop his own food business for years, but it was the COVID-19 outbreak that finally made him step out of his comfort zone of working in the media industry for 15 years and realize his dream.
“The work-from-home policy allowed me to have more free time,” said Sandy regarding the beginning of his business Sisrieat, which he cofounded with a partner in March.
After he was then laid off by the company he was working for, Sandy decided to focus on developing Sisrieat.
Sisrieat cofounder Yohanes Sandy started his culinary business during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Yohanes Sandy/File)
The business based in South Tangerang, Banten, started by selling chocolate pudding, and became quite successful as it managed to sell over 150 puddings within two months. Sisrieat now also offers a variety of Indonesian comfort foods, such as pepes ikan (steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves), ayam ungkep lengkuas (chicken cooked in galangal and various spices), a complete set of ketupat (rice cakes served with side dishes) for Idul Fitri, as well as puddings in a variety of flavors.
Sandy believes the stay-at-home period as a result of the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) contributed to Sisrieat’s instant success.
“At the same time, we try to offer simple dishes that are favored by all family members,” he added.
Travel journalist Clara Alverina established an online bakery shop during the pandemic. (Clara Alverina/File)
Clara Alverina has also been busy over the past few months realizing her dream of having a bakery shop. As a travel journalist on national television, her job is currently in hiatus.
“I used to travel at least twice in a month,” she said.
As she is now assigned to work on a morning program, Clara says that she has more free time, which allows her to establish the C-Baked brand in May.
A new kid on the block, the online bakery is currently offering fudgy brownies and Basque burnt cheesecake and taking pre-orders from the Jakarta and Tangerang areas.
“I saw [this business] as a new opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many people feel bored, a new hobby has appeared, which is snacking,” she explained.
She went on to say that as people become more aware of the virus, they are looking to purchase foods that are hygienic and produced by someone they trust.
As a consumer, Indiera Nathania, a kindergarten teacher who lives in Bekasi, West Java, shared a similar point of view with Clara.
She admitted that the COVID-19 outbreak had temporarily stopped her from buying outside food and snacks. However, after two months of cooking her own meals, Indiera began to purchase ready-to-cook dishes and snacks, such as dim sum and otak-otak (fishcake), from people that she knows personally.
Indiera said the dim sum and otak-otak sellers had only recently started selling the products amid the pandemic. “But since I know their products are great, I offer them to my other friends,” said Indiera, adding that she is now a reseller of those products.
Responding to the trend, food writer Kevindra Prianto Soemantri said that despite the fact that many industries, including food and beverages, had been affected by the pandemic, the need for consumption was increasing. As people rarely make trips to the supermarket, they are now craving more food variety.
“It gives an opportunity to those who have yet to work in the culinary industry,” he said.
He added that as the outbreak had created unemployment, the online food business had appeared as the easiest and fastest way of earning income.
Kevindra described the trend as "recreational food brands" as some have emerged on an occasional basis for enjoyment during the hard times.
In order to make such businesses last, Kevindra recommended that these new players not rely only on the current momentum but start making long-term plans. (kes)
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