“This is sexy.” He shows us a photo after we met. It’s not a photograph of a lady or a car, but a beautifully defined piece of meat. MYANMORE sits down with Htoo Moung, Managing Director of Marbled Black Company to discover his passion in high-quality meat.
Q: What inspires you to import high quality beef to Myanmar?
A: It began with my mom. When I was young, I wanted to stand next to my mom when she was cooking and that was how my passion started. After I finished my high school, I wanted to become a chef. So, I went to Singapore and Italy to study culinary skills. Having been trained and having worked abroad, I realized how important the quality beefs are . I have discovered that there are many different types of graded meat available such as normal cattle, cow, Angus, Black Angus, Wagyu beef from Japan, Australia, U.S. and so as the various types of pork.
Q: When did you come back to Myanmar?
A: I worked in the food business for 6 years in Singapore and came back to Myanmar in 2012, and founded Marbled Black Company. We initially worked with the government and convinced them to understand the differences between Myanmar and U.S beef products, and between Japan and U.S. and many different types of beef products because all the meats are not the same.
Q: Back in 2012, the number of high-end restaurants or hotels was limited. How did you survive back then?
A: That time people were saying, “Htoo Moung, if you were thinking of selling quality meat, you wouldn’t sell, you would have to go for cheap”. That’s why I always told them that even if they don’t buy, even if they won’t go for quality product-We would only eat it ourselves and get the market educated and convince the market about the quality product, quality ingredient meat and high quality concept, which we managed to do it. It was a success. We managed to provide a consistent quality product. Our first shipment was from the U.S. in January 2015. We managed to import a big slice of beef, and American Wagyu. That was our very first shipment after we received our very first import permit. Of course in the past, people used to bring in through hand carry or from the back door. We managed to open the meat import in the market for everyone. Nowadays, it’s easier to bring in meat from all over the world such as US, Switzerland, Brazil, Australia.
Q: What kept you going despite a few years of no business?
A: I kept studying the market and read the research. We communicated and discussed with government authorities. We also worked with overseas on policies and trying to understand food hygiene standards and grading system especially international protocol and the international requirements.
After the first shipment, we delivered our products and we did food tasting with customers. We got a lot of good feedback and response. The customers wanted to use our product for the longest time.
Q: You also mentioned that people don’t really have the culture of eating beef here.
A: It’s the old generation. There was also a belief that, in Myanmar, according to Myanmar rules and regulation, we can’t slaughter before the cattle is 20 years old. After 20 years, the meat is not good anymore—no tenderness, no proper amount of protein inside the meat. So, it’s not really good for the human consumption. That is why the older generation preferred not to eat beef.
Q: How many products do you currently import?
A: We import from major four countries. We work with the very few family farm and not industrialized meat. We are very focused on a few brands and products. The brand is called Jack’s Creek, which is one of the world best fillet steak producers in the world. They won the title three years in a row.
Recently, we started doing seafood as well about half year ago. We also import the quality premium seafood like the Blue Fin Tuna.
Q: What do you think will be the future of F&B businesses in Myanmar?
A: There will be so many different types and levels of restaurants coming up. When a country is growing and developing, the first thing people do is head to a good lifestyle and try good food. So that’s something that’s changing in Myanmar slowly.
There will also be more competitors. I sincerely hope that number 1, people will get consistent, and number two is quality. This is very important. We try to be more than selling the product but educating about the meat/product at the same time. We need to educate more in this market for the old generation and the new generation.
Q: What’s your favorite piece of meat? How do you like your meat? And what’s your favorite dish?
A: My favorite dish would be American Angus. If I have to choose, it would be boney rib eye. I like it medium rare with very fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, fresh vegetables, very simple sauce and you can get the ripe meat taste. It compliments very well together with these fresh vegetable and very light sauces.