Pandan power: Singapore beauty brand hopes to elevate humble SEA ingredients to super ingredient status

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Restoration Essence is tapping into the “hidden potentials” of everyday ingredients that can be found in kitchens all over South East Asia. ©Restoration Essence
Restoration Essence is tapping into the “hidden potentials” of everyday ingredients that can be found in kitchens all over South East Asia. ©Restoration Essence
Founder of Singapore-based brand Restoration Essence is tapping into the “hidden potentials” of everyday ingredients that can be found in kitchens all over South East Asia.

The star ingredient of the brand is pandan, a common ingredient that is widely used in South East Asian cooking as a flavouring.

The ingredient is used in a number of products, including the brand’s best-selling and award-winning Pandan Facial Scrub.

“Pandan is everywhere, but most people just think of it a common plant used in food or in taxis to ward off cockroaches. But it’s a very valuable ingredient, for example, people have been drinking pandan water to ease the pain of arthritis for years,” ​explained founder Sara Davina Soong.

Rediscovering ingredients

Even though the plant is grown abundantly, the brand only uses the leaves from a specific variety.

“Pandan is very easy to grow and they are grown in the backyard of many locals. But there are many different varieties. For example, the ones grown in Singapore may have different fragrance from the types in Malaysia or Thailand.”

The firm works with two farms in Malaysia and owns a small plot of land in Singapore to produce the pandan for its products.

We use leaves that are more fibrous so we can get more out of it and give us a better texture for the scrub,” ​said Soong.

To better understand the ingredient, Soong sent it in for clinical testing which confirmed that the plant is high in magnesium, antioxidants and has high detox value.

She revealed that she is currently working with a laboratory to further study its benefits.

Soong has made it her mission to elevate humble South East Asian ingredients, such as guava and green beans.

“There are a lot of plants and herbs that can be beneficial to your skin and body. There are a lot of hidden gems that have yet to be explored and I hope to tap into the untapped potential of Mother Nature.”

The latest product in development is an upgrade of the brand’s hair loss serum, which features guava and guava leaves.

She believes “truly Asian”​ ingredients will grow in popularity in the region.

“Consumers may not be familiar with the ingredients, but there is a trend that is catching on. A lot of superfood ingredients are being introduced into the market, but most of them are not Asian.”

Future developments

Soong revealed that the brand is currently repositioning itself as a health and wellness brand, rather than “just a beauty brand”.

“The mission is to restore from the inside out. You can't take care of skin and not take the body into consideration. Consumers today want that holistic experience.”

The brand started out by selling detox snacks and has since added detox teas due to demand from consumers.

Additionally, the company will be focused on developing its retail footprint at home and abroad.

“We are working with big departmental stores like Takashimaya and Robinsons to try and branch out into the mass market. The goal is to build up our physical presence,” ​said Soong.

Recently, the brand took part in an event hosted by Takashimaya and had great response from consumers.

“The experience was alright, we did pretty well and Takashimaya is now interested in stocking our products. If all goes well, the timeline we were given is January,” ​said Soong.

Aside from Singapore, the brand is also available in Cambodia, where Soong sees a lot of potential.

“There’s a growing market in Cambodia that is very into whitening. Most of the people who buy my products are millennials. Since we launched a year ago, business has been picking up. We have to increase our marketing efforts and hope to work with local celebrities there to increase awareness.”

The brand will also be available in Thailand by the end of this year, said Soong.

“We are working with a large company that will put our products in all its 21 retail stores.”

Soong said China is the next market on her radar and she eventually hopes to enter the Middle East.

“The consumers in the Middle East have a lot of spending power. In terms of trends, I think it will lead us to the Middle East, but that’s our five-year plan.”

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