It’s an unfortunate fact of life that working overtime in an office often means resorting to fatty and sugary snacks sold in vending machines or 24-hour convenience stores. This can have serious health consequences, such as unwanted weight gain, particularly when combined with greasy lunches from hawker stalls, work-related stress and a lack of exercise.
In Singapore, it’s a growing problem – Health Promotion Board data released last year showed 42 percent of Singaporean men and 28 percent of Singaporean women aged 30 to 39 were overweight. If they don’t start cutting back on calories, these busy executives are putting themselves at risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart ailments.
Former bankers Andrew Lim, Walter Oh and Wong Weng Fai, the 30-something founders of healthy snack makers BoxGreen, wanted to help improve the lifestyle of 9-to-5 professionals.
Back in 2014, they were all working long hours at DBS Bank and found themselves relying too often on sugared peanuts and chocolate bars from vending machines. They craved healthier alternatives. And so they decided to offer them.
BoxGreen was officially launched in May 2014, when Andrew delivered a snack pack to a customer for the first time.
“It started off as a concept of having a service that would deliver snacks to people regularly. But soon they wanted healthy snacks after work, and we have even shipped them out at midnight to subscribers,” Andrew says. “After receiving positive feedback and requests for specific types of snacks, we began customising our own snacks and building our own brand.”
The following year, all three founders quit their banking jobs to dedicate themselves full-time to making hearty bites. Clients include health-conscious multinational firms, such as Daimler and Twitter, Singapore’s Ministry of Education Singapore and the non-profit National Kidney Foundation.
BoxGreen’s 50 flavours
BoxGreen works with an in-house nutritionist to create healthy snacks to be delivered to office employees and to homes. The company has painstakingly put together 50 varieties of snacks for customers to choose from, based on their tastes and snacking habits.
Granola, nut and dried fruit mixes, vegetable chips, superfood cookies and brownies are just some of BoxGreen’s yummy offerings. “All our snacks are nutritionist-approved, natural and free of artificial flavours and colours,” notes Andrew.
Office workers tend to sit for long periods of time at least five days a week. The lack of physical activity limits the number of calories they should consume.
To maintain a healthy weight, office workers should make the most of their snacks. The best options are low in calories, high in protein and fibre, natural and unprocessed, and with a low glycemic-index in order to keep you fuller for longer. Healthy snacks don’t have to be bland or boring – for those craving savoury flavours, BoxGreen makes sweet potato fries, beetroot crisps, tom yam-flavoured rice puffs, and peri-peri lime soya crisps.
BoxGreen’s vacuum-fried shiitake mushroom chips are one of the company’s best-selling products. They’re not only nutritious, but tasty enough to replace potato crisps, a perennial favourite among the peckish. A 20-gram serving of mushroom chips contains just 76.4 calories, 13.2 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fat.
On the other hand, a similar-sized serving of potato crisps has 107 calories, with 7 grams of fat. With that much fat packed into a handful of crisps, and with snacking an almost daily occurrence, it’s no wonder office workers gain weight quickly. And as the workforce gets younger, with more ambitious graduates looking to jumpstart careers, the “middle-aged spread” may soon become a phenomenon among workers in their 20s and 30s.
“Our popular products are Heartystrong, Marvellous Murukku Mix, Cheng Tng and Cranberry Afternoon Biscotti. These products are under 150 calories
and we believe they’re the most popular due to their nutritious value without adding on too much to the calorie count,” Andrew says.
BoxGreen currently ships its snacks to Singapore and Malaysia. To cater to local tastebuds it has added flavours unique to both countries to its mixes. Cheng Tng, a nut mix derived from a local dessert of the same name, contains dried longans, goji berries and crispy lotus seeds. Marvellous Murukku Mix offers a healthier version of murukku, a popular Indian snack made of rice flour and dhal flour, spiced and deep-fried to crunchy perfection. BoxGreen’s guilt-free edition contains cashews, soya crisps and multi-grain murukku.
Making snacking healthy again
With its healthier and yet convenient options, BoxGreen wants to reframe snacking in a better light. The hope is that stressed, time-poor executives will stop binging on salt and sugar laden munchies and embrace snacks that are wholesome and calorie-light.
“Snacking is only human,” says Andrew. “[But] it does add on to our calorie count, so choosing healthier options is crucial. It provides energy in the middle of the day and helps us concentrate on tasks better. Furthermore, a healthy snack in between meals can prevent us from overeating during meal time, while increasing our intake of good nutrients for the day.”
Vitamin-packed superfoods such as cacao, acai berry, edamame, matcha and quinoa feature regularly in BoxGreen’s offerings. A monthly snack box costs SG$19.90 and contains 12 types of snacks. Individual packs are also on sale on BoxGreen’s online store, from SG$3.90 for a 50-gram pack to SG$9.90 for 250 grams.
During the early days of BoxGreen, the founders delivered the snacks themselves. But the surge in demand caught the attention of venture capitalists and in 2016 they raised US$335,000 in seed capital co-led by Expara Ventures and 500 Startups, as well as an undisclosed angel investor. The company used the funds to beef up their team and expand into Malaysia.
It also launched its first healthy snack vending machine at OUE Link in Singapore’s central business district, and added a new machine at Singapore’s Changi Airport. Today BoxGreen has more than 1,000 subscribers.
Andrew, Walter and Fai remain on the lookout for new opportunities to make healthy snacks more accessible. “We are looking to incorporate more technology to further better our operations to continuously improve the way we serve our customers,” Andrew says.
Photos courtesy of BoxGreen