Koomi is celebrating its expansion to Cebu by opening its 50th Philippine branch at SM Seaside over the weekend.
The yogurt brand earlier launched stores at Ayala Center Cebu and SM City Cebu.
John-Michael Hilton, president and CEO of Visum Ventures, stumbled upon Koomi when he was on vacation in Sydney, Australia with business partners. They waited in line for 40 minutes for what they thought was milk tea, which turned out to be a yogurt drink.
It was love at first sip.
Hilton admits that yogurt was such an unlikely product to break out as sweet sugary milk tea stores are on every corner of the Philippines.
"We took a risk. When Filipinos think of yogurt, they usually think 'maasim' (sour) and 'mahal' (expensive)," he said.
Koomi has ways of attracting milk tea fans to yogurt. They have a "Filipino" blend yogurt that is creamier and a little sweeter than their standard Australia yogurt. There are also varieties that should appeal to the sweet drinks crowd like Cookies and Cream, Nutella, and Biscoff Cookies, and even a familiar looking "bopping boba" complete with brown sugar syrup and pearls.
Then they encourage repeat patrons to try the Australian Blend, the healthier yogurt which leans toward the sour side with natural add-ons like berries, oats, and matcha. Local ingredients such as langka, mango, purple rice, guyabano, and ube make the unfamiliar sourness friendlier to those willing to take a sip.
Hilton said that in the beginning, the mix was 70%-30% in favor of the Filipino blend. But now, it's now flipped with more orders going towards the Australian blend.
Besides the drinks, Koomi has Yogurt Cakes, or yogurt layered with crushed graham crackers and fruits that make for a nice light snack. The Waterberry Yogurt Cake, in particular, is a must-try with its unusual but delicious combination of fresh strawberries and a layer of watermelon.
Despite the challenging business environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Koomi thrived and saw incredible growth. Before the global health crisis, Koomi had a scant 6 locations.
On one hand, Hilton credits this to Filipinos trying out yogurt as they looked for healthier alternatives while being on lockdown. He said they tried to match the price point of milk tea while giving something different and good for overall health.
Hilton and his team have invested a lot in research and development. A key indicator of the yogurt's quality is that the ingredients sink to the bottom, showing off how pure the product is without added stabilizers. At the same time, the brand will be adding more flavor combinations, ingredients, and even yogurt-based products to its menu.
"We stand by our quality. When you look in Koomi stores, everything's very open and very visible for guests to see what we do. Because our yogurt is made fresh daily, our fruits all fresh, we really want to show transparency about what we do every single time," said Hilton.
After opening the 50th branch, they will be opening another 20 by the end of 2021 all over the country.
"We'll be opening a Koomi every four or five days, and our footprint will extend to the Visayas and Mindanao," Hilton beams.